How Roberto Clemente became Carlos Beltran’s inspiration


The pride comes from deep within his baseball soul.

There are many reasons Carlos Beltran is the player he is today and is having a remarkable season at the age of 39, but don’t overlook the influence the great Roberto Clemente has had on his baseball life.

Beltran is carrying the Yankees offense. The switch-hitter picked up two more hits, a run scored and another RBI in the Yankees’ easy 4-0 win over the Tigers on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. He is batting .359 the past month. For the season, Beltran owns 16 home runs and 44 RBIs.

This is like the 2004 postseason all over again; in his past five games, Beltran is hitting .474 with two doubles, three home runs and 11 RBIs.

Beltran is most proud of how he has carried himself throughout his career, which goes back to another right fielder, Clemente.

“Oh my gosh, Roberto has had such a big-time influence on my career,’’ Beltran told The Post on Friday. “Roberto represents more than just being a Puerto Rican player, he represents all Latinos. I’ve seen highlights of him and being able to meet his wife, Vera Clemente, was a great experience for me.’’

That meeting took place in 2012 at Vera’s home in Puerto Rico, the same home she and Roberto shared until he died in a plane crash on a mission of mercy Dec. 31, 1972, at the age of 38.

“Honestly, talking to Vera, I felt like I was talking to Roberto,’’ Beltran said. “Just the fact that she was the woman next to him, she went everywhere he went. They always tried to keep the family together, and Vera is still trying to keep Roberto’s legacy alive. His legacy always will be here because of everything he did off the field, and the impact he has had with Latino players is still alive.’’

What sticks out most for Beltran when he watches video of Clemente?

“The passion that he played with,’’ said Beltran, who won the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually to the player who best represents baseball through positive contributions on and off the field.

“Roberto did everything 100 percent. The way he carried himself in the field. He played the game hard, man,’’ Beltran said. “When you play the game hard and people know you are not trying to show them up, you are just trying to do the right thing, people will love you. People will respect you. Nobody is going to be wishing you anything negative, people will only be wishing you success.’’

This year is special for Beltran, a free agent after the season.

“I’m healthy and I am getting good results,’’ he said. “I’m going out there with the mentality of trying to doing something positive for the team, and thank God things are working my way,’’ Beltran said. “At the same time, as a team we are starting to figure out what is our strength.’’

The Yankees moved a game over .500 with the win, their fifth straight. Winner CC Sabathia has reinvented himself as a pitcher, and Beltran has been the force in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.

“It’s amazing what he’s doing,’’ Sabathia said of Beltran after the victory. “I’ve played against ’Los, and played with him now the past three years, just what he’s been able to do over the course of his career on the field and also help guys in here. He is the total package.’’

Beltran deserves to be named to his ninth All-Star team next month in San Diego at Petco Park.

“All-Star Games are a great accomplishment,’’ Beltran said. “It’s a great honor to be in the same clubhouse with so many guys that you look up to — you get the chance to get to know players, and you are like, ‘Oh my God, this guy is such a nice guy.’ It’s a great bonding thing.’’

At his age, Beltran said with a big smile, it would be even more rewarding.

“I’d be the oldest guy in the clubhouse,” he said. “It would be great.’’

He might even pass along some stories he heard from Vera about the great Clemente.