Today, fan favorite Adrian Beltre returns to Safeco Field for the first time since being signed as a free agent by the Red Sox in January. Many Mariner fans (including myself) were absolutely devastated that our ever-grinning, appealing-to-the-first-base-umpire, swinging-from-his-knees, rejecting-a-cup third baseman had been sent to Boston. Boston fans would never appreciate the wonder and the quirkiness that is Mr. Beltre. After all, here in Seattle we had a man willing to express his adoration of Adrian by toting around his three foot high face. It would be impossible for Boston to top that.
Beltre's biggest fan isn't going to reveal what he has planned for tonight's game, but the man known to his admirers (yes, this fan has his own fans) simply as "Red" was willing to answer questions about how his Beltre fanaticism developed.
When did you first fall hard for Adrian Beltre?
I first started liking him back when he was a Dodger. A friend of mine is a lifelong Dodger fan and I would watch quite a few games with him and that is where it started. I thought he was awesome then, but it wasn't until I got to see him play in person every day that I realized just how damn incredible he really is.
Were you a Mariners fan before Beltre came to Seattle, or did that convince you to become a fan of the team?
Yeah, I was a Mariner fan then. Not to the extent that I was once Beltre signed though. The Mariners have really been the only "home town" team that I have EVER liked. When Beltre signed, it was the first time ever that I could watch my favorite player play for my favorite team, in my own backyard. Not too many people get to say they've had that chance.
When did you make the bobblehead?
Well, I wish I could say that I made the bobblehead, but I didn't. They were for sale at the Safeco team store and Shannon surprised me and bought one for my birthday. It's funny, I remember this little kid outside the team store saying to me, "why would you even want that?" He was just a kid so I couldn't really get that mad at him. Second best gift ever!!!
(Interviewer is surprised. Interviewer wonders why on earth there weren't more three foot bobbleheads in the Safeco stands).
How does it feel to be famous for being a fan?
I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been fun. I love going to the park, watching the game and meeting new people and taking pictures and all of that stuff. It's funny, so many people have come up to me and told me that they have watched more games because of me and they want to see what I'm going to do next and things like that. It kind of weirds me out because I'm not really doing anything out of the ordinary from my everyday life, that's just my personality. It makes me happy knowing what I do at the ballpark makes other people happy. I don't go out of my way to try to be entertaining, but I'm glad that most people are entertained by it. I love baseball and I love having fun.
What is your favorite Beltre moment?
This one is pretty easy. The game against the White Sox, August 18, 2007. That was the first game I ever brought the 3' bobblehead to. I was a little nervous to see how the players would react to it. Fortunately for me they loved it, including Mr. Beltre. About half way through the game Mr. Beltre handed me up and autographed bat that he had used that game. It took just about all of me to not cry with excitement (I still get goosebumps even thinking about it as I type this).
How has Adrian and/or the Seattle Mariners reacted to your extreme devotion to Beltre?
They have been awesome about it! Mr. Beltre always said hello or gave me the tip of the cap whenever he saw me at the games. A lot of the other players have done it as well. When J.J. was here he would talk with me a bit, Washburn, Adam Jones will say hello if he sees me when they are in town. When Shannon and I were in Denver to watch the M's last year we ended up at the same hotel as the Mariners. We spoke with Bedard a couple of times (very nice guy), and Griffey stopped me in the lobby one night to tell us thank you and that they get a kick out seeing me and hearing me at the games. That was so neat for me to hear. All of these guys entertain me to no end, so it was incredible to hear that I do things to entertain them as well.
With Beltre gone to Boston, are you a Red Sox fan now? How do you continue to show your love to him?
HELL NO!!! I don't think I could ever be a Red Sox fan! When I go to Boston to watch a game, I can tolerate the fans there. They are a bit obnoxious but I expect that, I'm on their turf. But when Boston is here and half of "Red Sox Nation" are the same people I see in Mariners gear 75 home games of the year, that tends to irritate the shit out of me. Red Sox Nation is like herpes, they're red and irritating and the flare ups last about 3-4 days. They go away and just when you think you got rid of them ... BAM!!! They're back!!!
As for showing my support, I do have a Boston Beltre jersey. A piece of me died that day, but I support the player, not the team. I supported Mr. Beltre when he was a Dogder, even more so as a Mariner, and will continue to do so as a Red Sox or whatever team he decides to play for in the future. Mr. Beltre will always be my favorite player.
Many, many thanks to Red for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm sure anyone watching tonight's game will see a glimpse of him in the stands, and Mr. Beltre will be sure to appreciate being welcomed back to Safeco. Red speaks for the majority of Mariners fans when he says, "I support the player, not the team." We miss you, Adrian, but we wish you all the best in Boston.