"It means a lot," Beltran said. "It's been a great year for me. I'd have to say that."
That career renaissance was on full display Tuesday at the 82nd All-Star Game. For the sixth time in his career, Beltran was invited to take part in the festivities. And when it came time to assume his duties as the National League's starting designated hitter, Beltran finished 1-for-2 with an infield single, scoring on Prince Fielder's three-run homer off Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson in the NL's 5-1 victory over the American League.
"You should cheer for the National League," Beltran said afterward. "For those teams that are in contention, we're trying to win home-field advantage."
Named the NL's starting DH on Monday, Beltran was somewhat less productive in his first at-bat; facing AL starter Jered Weaver, he swung and missed at a changeup out of the zone.
"I was looking fastball, for sure, but I guess he wasn't thinking the same thing he was thinking," Beltran said. "He's a good pitcher. That's why he was able to start for the American League."
Yet Beltran, throughout the first half of this season, has been a similarly strong hitter. Fully healthy after years of chronic knee problems and multiple surgeries, Beltran is batting .285 while leading the Mets with 13 homers and 58 RBIs. Now 34 years old, he is in the midst of his strongest -- and healthiest -- season in three years.
Four months ago, it was difficult to imagine Beltran running at full speed this summer, let alone doing so to beat out an infield hit in the All-Star Game. But there he was in the fourth inning Tuesday, sprinting to beat out a ground ball to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.
Count him among those least surprised.
"Through my career, I always have turned the negatives into motivation for me to work hard," Beltran said. "Maybe a lot of guys can't do that, but I always try to prove people wrong.
"There were days where I felt like I was down. But at the same time, I never gave up. I always continued to go to the ballpark, do my job and do whatever I needed to do in order to get myself back."
Few could have predicted such a rapid renaissance for Beltran, which has made it that much sweeter for him. Flying into Phoenix on Sunday evening, Beltran spent the early part of this week with his family, before swapping stories with his NL teammates -- some old friends, some new foes -- and soaking up the All-Star atmosphere at Chase Field.
For Beltran, the experience is nothing new -- he has attended five other All-Star Games, and is now 7-for-14 with four runs scored in his Midsummer appearances. But representing the NL took on new meaning this summer, given the bumpy road that led him here.
"It's a lot of satisfaction for everything that I went through last year, trying to rehab myself, trying to put myself back on the field," Beltran said. "Being able to have a good first half, that really means a lot. And being able to be selected to the All-Star Game, it's a great honor."
Though Beltran's companion at the game, shortstop Jose Reyes, could not participate due to injury, Reyes did accept his invitation to attend. Spending much of Tuesday afternoon continuing his rehab from a left hamstring strain, Reyes took ground balls at Chase Field and swung right-handed during batting practice. He planned to take a red-eye flight back to New York after the game, before continuing his workouts Wednesday at a training facility on Long Island. If all goes well, Reyes should begin a sprinting progression during Thursday's team workout at Citi Field.
It was a hectic schedule, but for Reyes -- as for Beltran -- it was well worth the trip.
"I'm happy to come out here, to be around all the guys, to be on the field," Reyes said. "There are so many fans here, so that's good. I've enjoyed everything."