OAKLAND — Adrián Beltré will go down as one of the best two-way third basemen to ever play the game. The 39-year-old future Hall of Famer has belted 469 home runs in his storied career, while winning five Gold Gloves at the hot corner. But even Beltré has had to stop and take notice of A's 25-year-old rising star Matt Chapman.
“He's done great,” Beltré said. “He is great defensively and can be even better offensively. It's good to see young guys like that come up and play the game the right way and play hard. I'm a fan. ... I haven't seen a lot of people come up and show how good they can be -- maybe [Nolan] Arenado, [Manny] Machado, those guys.”
“It's definitely an honor to be considered in that category,” Chapman responded. “To hear him say things like that means I'm doing the right stuff. I feel like I've got a lot of work to do, but I appreciate the kind words. It means a lot.”
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A Southern California native, Chapman grew up watching Beltré play for the Dodgers.
“I was a huge fan,” Chapman smiled. “I've always loved to watch good baseball players and he was somebody I always looked up to. ... It's been fun to play against him. It's been pretty cool to meet him. I got a bat signed by him.”
Throughout his young career, Chapman has dazzled fans and scouts alike with his almost cartoonish defensive ability. This season, he has taken his offense to another level, slashing .275/.361/.505. Since the All-Star break, Chapman leads all of baseball with 22 extra base hits, including seven home runs. But he'll still take a great defensive play over a homer.
“Making a play on defense, for sure,” he answered, without hesitation. “With offense, it's a lot more hard work to get the job done or do whatever you need to do. You still feel good about it, but for me, the defense is just more natural and more fun. ... Sometimes when I do things with the bat, I almost surprise myself, whereas defensively, I feel like I'm just really in the moment and expect those kind of things.”
Chapman and Beltré will go head-to-head Tuesday night when the A's host the Rangers. Like the rest of the baseball world, Beltré has been amazed by Oakland's remarkable run to the top of the AL West.
“As a baseball fan, I don't think anybody thought they would be competing with Houston like they are,” he said. “They have played well. It's always a good story when the underdog comes out and plays the way they have. ... It's nice to see a team like that putting it together and competing with the guys who are supposed to be leading the division.”