Former Mets player and past Roberto Clemente Award recipient Carlos Beltran looks...

Former Mets player and past Roberto Clemente Award recipient Carlos Beltran looks on from the field on MLB Roberto Clemente Day at Citi Field on Thursday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Former Mets star — and manager — Carlos Beltran returned to Citi Field on Thursday for the first time since he and team parted ways in January 2020 during the fallout of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

On site for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Day ceremonies, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Famer and humanitarian’s death, Beltran said the context of his visit meant “all of this is positive.”

But it also marked another step back into the sport that briefly shunned him.

“I think this is a new [Mets] ownership, new mentality. Let’s put it that way. Let’s put it that way,” Beltran told Newsday. “What happened happened. In life, you have to move on. In my case, I’m glad that I’m doing something related to the game, doing a little bit of broadcasting with [the Yankees and YES Network]. It’s good, because I love being around the game, I love being around the players. When you play for a long time, there’s a lot of things you feel like you want to share.”

That sentiment was similar to the one he expressed upon being hired as Mets manager in November 2019. He had had a long, successful career as a player and said he wanted to give back to the next generations. But after MLB investigated the 2017 World Series champion Astros for an illegal sign-stealing scheme — and named just one then-player from that team, Beltran, a widely respected veteran leader, in its report — Beltran lost the job. The Mets said at the time that the parties agreed “to mutually part ways.” They officially list him among their former managers, having served in 2019-20 with a record of 0-0. 

Then the pandemic hit, the Wilpons sold the Mets to Steve Cohen, and Beltran became something of a baseball recluse for a couple of years. He reemerged this spring training with his YES gig but in recent months has maintained a low profile, off-air, around the ballpark, almost never speaking publicly. He has made few other public appearances, until MLB invited him to be part of the Clemente-related goings-on.

Beltran was one of 14 former Roberto Clemente Award nominees on hand. That group included former Mets Al Leiter, Carlos Delgado and Curtis Granderson. Beltran, like the others, received applause from the Citi Field crowd. The Mets and Pirates all wore No. 21 — Clemente’s number — during their game.

Would Beltran want to work for the Mets or another team? He’d have to consider it if the opportunity presents itself, he said.

“First of all, you need to have the interest in order for that to happen,” he said. “If it happens, I’d have to be the one making a decision and consider the opportunity and how it is, how it’s going to be. But there’s no doubt that I love the game, I love to be around. Talking baseball is something that I love.”

Beltran spent part of his afternoon saying hello to members of the Mets that he knows: Francisco Lindor, who called Beltran “a great mentor” with whom he still speaks regularly; Edwin Diaz, another teammate on the 2017 Puerto Rico WBC team; third-base coach Joey Cora, another fellow Puerto Rican; and Kevin Kierst, the Mets’ longtime equipment manager.

And then there was Alex Cohen, minority owner and president of the Amazin’ Mets Foundation. Beltran has never met owner Steve Cohen, he said, but got a kick out of chatting with his wife.

“She seems like she’s having fun,” Beltran said. “They’re having a beautiful time with this team and I feel like they’re trying to do something real good.”

And so it is a new day — for Beltran, who is reintegrating into baseball life, and for the Mets.

“I feel like it’s a new era,” he said. “The fans should be excited, players should be excited, free-agent players will be considering the Mets strongly. It’s all positive.”

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