Carlos Beltran began his prolific career with the Royals, and now, nearly 16 years later, he continues to be a productive presence for the Cardinals.

In between was a long stay with the Mets, bookended by brief stints with the Astros and Giants. There have been 2,131 hits, 348 home runs, playoff moments, All-Star berths, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, big contracts and, most important to Beltran, his wife, Jessica, and their daughters, Ivana and Kiara.

Through it all, however, two recent off-the-field developments have had exceptional meaning for Beltran. He's been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award, and he's witnessing the first graduating class of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in his native Puerto Rico.

Clemente, the Hall of Famer from the Pittsburgh Pirates, was a hero in Puerto Rico. Beltran was born more than four years after Clemente perished in a plane crash on a humanitarian mission, delivering relief supplies to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

"I talked to Jessica's grandmother," Beltran said. She was in Puerto Rico that day, and she said it was a sad, sad day for Puerto Rico, because people really looked up to Roberto."

Beltran has idolized Clemente.

"Roberto was a player that, as a kid, I grew up hearing about the things he did on the field and off the field," he said. "I never got a chance to watch him play personally, but there are a lot of memories of him in videos. And when I get the chance to see those, it really amazes me how great a player he was. At the same time, he was a great humanitarian.

"In Puerto Rico, he's still a big influence on things that we do."

That's a major reason that Beltran has tried to follow in Clemente's humanitarian footsteps throughout his career. After seven years of planning, he took a giant stride with the formation of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in the ecologically-friendly town of Florida, Puerto Rico. It's a high school for 10th, 11th and 12th grades.