Texas Rangers

Is retirement lurking in two years for Choo the same way it was for Beltre?

Elvis Andrus says Adrian Beltre has no regrets on retirement

Texas Rangers shortstop and presumptive clubhouse leader Elvis Andrus arrived to spring training Saturday without Adrian Beltre, who retired in November.
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Texas Rangers shortstop and presumptive clubhouse leader Elvis Andrus arrived to spring training Saturday without Adrian Beltre, who retired in November.

Photo day arrived Wednesday morning at Texas Rangers spring training, and this is the day, more than any other, when being a veteran really has benefits.

Those with the most MLB service time go last. Those who have none go first, at 6:15 a.m. On Wednesday, depending on the weather app, the temperature was slightly below freezing.

Membership, indeed, has its privileges, and Shin-Soo Choo, who has played 14 seasons, and has 11.119 years of service time, and was among the last players who needed to be in the clubhouse, didn’t take advantage of them.

No player beats Choo to the Surprise Recreation Campus, where for six springs now he has arrived at 5 a.m. or earlier. But for the first year, he has the distinction of being the oldest player on the Rangers’ spring roster.

“Hopefully Bartolo comes back,” said Choo, who turns 37 on July 13.

Choo said that he doesn’t feel old physically, but he understands where Adrian Beltre was coming from in November as he decided it was time to leave baseball and focus on family.

Choo is a father of three, including a 14-year-old son, Alan, and the designated hitter graciously stood at his locker before his round in front of the cameras and spoke about his off-season, his future after this seven-year contract expires following the 2020 season, and the 2019 Rangers.

It seemed like a quiet off-season for you. Is that the way you prefer it to be? It was the same off-season. I was back to my husband job, and it was good to be a normal dad. I woke up early in the morning and dropped them off at school, picked them up, did all the activities.

When I was young, this was tough. When I had kids I was 22 years old. I wasn’t really a good husband or dad. I wasn’t ready. Now I’m 36 years old. I know this is tough. Every parent is the same way. Now I’ve learned. My oldest son turned 14. In four more years, if I really want to do it, I can’t because he’ll be in college. I try to maximize my time. I try to enjoy every moment.

That’s why you drive the kids to school? Driving with the kids, I have more time to talk. “Hey, how was school?” We stay home, we never talk. We have dinner, but Alan’s doing his thing and I’m doing mine. When you’re driving, you’re in the same area and you talk with them. “Hey, Dad, how’s your baseball? How’s your body?” I’ll ask the kids, “How was school? Who’s your best friend?” Now I know more information, and they’re like, “Oh, dad cares about me?” Before, in the season, it’s six months away, two months of spring training, I’m never home, and I travel a lot. It’s like we’re separate, even though we live in the same house. When we have a homestand, I see my kids only on the weekends.

So, you have an understanding of what Adrian went through? A hundred percent I understand. I do. Everybody probably believed he could play a couple more years. Everybody believed in him. When we start playing baseball we love it, but as we grow we have to protect our family. What’s best for my family? Sometimes I think about my parents. They didn’t have a lot of money, but I still remember they always cared. I played baseball in different cities and they followed me. I know. Money’s not everything. I want to be part of [Alan’s] life.

You have two years left on your contract. Do you want to continue playing after it expires? It’s hard to say because when I think about personal goals, yes, definitely. Baseball, sports, is a short career. If you’re healthy and can perform on the field, I definitely can play. At the same time, I have a family. My wife has been a single mom for eight months for 16 years, so, yeah. It’s too early. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week. So, I’ll just keep playing and doing my job, and we’ll see.

You’re the oldest player on the team. Do you feel that way? No, I don’t think so. I know I’m the oldest guy on the team, but still I can play this game. I’ve said this many times: I play this game, I’m going keep working inside and outside on the field. I don’t feel different than when I was 25 years old, but maybe I’m smarter now? I’m not just always working hard, hard, hard. I understand more situations and how my body feels and to listen to my body. I’m always working hard, but if I feel bad, maybe it’s step back for a day.

What do you see for the Rangers this season? Playoffs.

You are Mr. Optimism. I see a lot of good things. I know we haven’t gotten to Opening Day yet, but I feel really good. I feel like this ballclub can surprise a lot of people. People say we’re going to be last place this season, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re together. A lot of people can see we have talent, but we’re together. We can be a winning team.

Have the atmosphere and chemistry improved under manager Chris Woodward? I think so. Everybody feels a lot more free. We’re the same Rangers, but there’s more confident to feel free to talk. They seem happier. Players are moving around in and out of the clubhouse. I can see a difference.

After 11 seasons covering the Rangers for the Star-Telegram, Jeff Wilson knows that baseball is a 24/7/365 business and there is far more to baseball than just the 162 games each season. There’s also more to Jeff -- like a family and impressive arsenals of Titleist hats and adidas shoes -- but sometimes it’s hard to tell.