Delgado making an impact on and off the field

For more than a decade, he's been one of baseball's most productive hitters and a team leader. Off the field, Carlos Delgado has been an active promoter of social programs to help the community.

But for whatever reason, the New York Mets' first baseman is one of the most underestimated stars of his generation.

"In Puerto Rico there's a saying: 'It's better to fall in grace than to be funny,'" Delgado told ESPNdeportes.com.

"I might not have as much charisma as others, or maybe people simply don't like me."

Delgado, 34, has hit .282 over his 15-year career, is 13th among active players in home runs (407) and 16th in RBIs (1,297).

Last season he broke the 30 home-run mark for the 10th consecutive year and he had at least 100 RBIs in a single summer for the eighth time in nine years. In 2000 while still with the Toronto Blue Jays, he won the AL's Hank Aaron Award -- which recognizes the best overall hitter in each league -- after finishing fourth in hits (.344), home runs (41) and RBIs (137).

Playing the first 12 years of his career in Toronto could be one reason he's lacked recognition. He has been to only two All-Star Games.

Before the 2005 season, he signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins, who traded him to the Mets a year later. But in both situations, he has been overshadowed by more popular players such as Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

During his short time in Miami, he was a headliner in every newspaper, not because of his on-the-field performance, but because of his open opposition to the war in Iraq and for declining to stand up during the national anthem in some games.

"People who understand baseball know what I've done," said Delgado. "I'm satisfied with everything I've achieved and for helping make my teams better."

Delgado plans to play long enough to attempt to reach the 500 career home-run mark.

Until the Mets' playoff berth last year, Delgado owned the longest streak (1,711) among active players without ever advancing to the postseason.

"We fell short and couldn't go to the World Series last season, but we have a great team and we'll try once again," said Delgado.

Although the Mets fell one win short of their first World Series in six years, Delgado was honored last fall with the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the players who best combine their abilities with community service.

Six years ago, Delgado started a foundation named Extra Bases, to which he has donated $500,000. Extra Bases is a charity organization in Puerto Rico, designed to help people with no resources and honor outstanding young people in the community.

It also provides toys for the Puerto Rican children at Christmas time, and for three consecutive years the organization has awarded four-year college scholarships to two outstanding students in the country.

"One tries to do the best he can and at the same time tries to be a positive influence for people," Delgado said. "When my career is over, I want to leave … a positive mark, not in the newspapers, but in other people."

Enrique Rojas is a reporter and columnist for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.