CHICAGO -- It's been 18 years, but Carlos Beltran still remembers the first time he experienced snow.
It happened in Lansing, Mich., in the spring of 1996 -- back when Beltran was about to start his first full season of professional baseball with a newly-formed Class A team, the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium hadn't even hosted its first official Lugnuts game yet when Beltran and a few teammates got their first look at the field, which had a dusting of snow covering it.
"It was cold," Beltran said. "It was so cold. I never experienced any type of weather like that in my life before that. That was the first time. That was a long time ago."
Indeed, it was.
Thursday night's game against the Cubs was the 2,000th Major League game of Beltran's career, happening in his 16th season. In the time that's passed, Beltran has played for five teams and become one of the game's perennial stars. Prior to Thursday's game, Beltran had clubbed 353 home runs and driven in 1,295 runs while posting a .283 career batting average and stealing 308 bases.
"When you start talking about Hall-of-Fame players, you look at all of them and they've done it for a long period of time," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've seen so many young players come in [and they're] a flash in the pan and we don't hear a whole lot about them later. The consistent level of excellence is very rare and Carlos should be very proud. He's a different style player now than when he first came up with all the speed and just that youthful style, but he's still moving well and swinging the bat as good as any time in his career, in my opinion."
What's been the secret to his longevity?
"I think it's dedication," Beltran said. "You have to dedicate yourself to what you really love to do, and in my case baseball has always been my passion. At the same time, you have to have pride for what you do, the job that you do. So, every time I take the field, I take the field with the mentality to do something positive to help the team."
As for playing his 2,000th game on a much more pleasant day than that snowy day in Lansing 18 years ago, Beltran took it all in stride.
"I didn't know about it until before [Wednesday's] game," he said. "I guess it's good."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.