Adrian Beltre was hot. He had already hit three extra-base hits, including a homer, and was four hits away from history as he closed in on 3,000 career hits. But in the eighth inning of Wednesday's Marlins-Rangers game, he didn't get a chance to get any closer.
When Beltre is on deck, he usually declines to stand in the pre-arranged on-deck circle, instead choosing to position himself nearly behind the batter who is currently at the plate. He's been doing that his entire career and had never been told to alter his routine in his 20 years of playing, but second base umpire Gerry Davis had a problem with it.
Davis instructed Beltre to stand in the on-deck circle, but rather than comply, Beltre dragged the mat to where he was already standing. Davis ejected him on the spot.
"I wasn't being funny," Beltre said. "He told me to stand on the mat so I pulled the mat where I was and stand on it. I actually did what he told me. I was listening."
The reason Beltre stands so far away from the circle is because he's been struck by stray foul balls in that spot before. He doesn't want to get hit, so he picks a spot where that's less likely to occur. And until now, it's never been a problem.
"Second base umpire came down and told me I need to move," Beltre said. "I tell Gerry I have no problem but I didn't want to get hit. I've been hit standing over there. He said I don't care and you need to be on top of the mat. So, OK. I pulled the mat where I was at and he threw me out.
"If you see the video you see everybody stand in the same spot. Why was that a problem today? I've been staying in the same spot the whole series."
The decision didn't sit well with the Rangers, especially manager Jeff Banister. He emerged from the dugout and began arguing with Davis, who then ejected Banister as well. It's the fourth time this year Banister has been tossed from a game.
He, along with Beltre, felt the fans who stuck around to watch what ended up becoming a 22-10 loss to the Marlins, were robbed of witnessing Beltre's march to history.
"Look, the man's chasing 3,000, our fans stuck around to see that last at-bat, they didn't get to see it," Banister said. "Very unfortunate. Don't know why it needed to be engaged, don't understand it. This is a man that's chasing history, opportunity to get another at-bat in front of our fans."
It rubbed the Rangers the wrong way, but to those on the other side of the diamond, the situation was pretty bizarre. Drew Steckenreider was on the mound for the incident, pitching in his 10th Major League game, and he wasn't too sure how he was supposed to act while it happened.
"He's a great guy and a great player," Steckenreider said. "It's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I didn't, honestly, know how to react out there. I went over and stood next to Dietrich and we just laughed with our gloves over our faces."