Bashin’ It Like Beckham

I had a surprise this week as I went from having a non-travel week to being sent to cover Tim Beckham’s draft-day party in Griffin, Georgia. Things got interesting on Wednesday as it became more likely that Beckham would be the first overall pick, causing MLB to have Dave Winfield give the prep shortstop a call in hopes of enticing him to head to the Milk House in Orlando for the Draft festivities.

But Beckham’s family and friends had set up a big shindig of their own at the GTO Event Center in Griffin. (My first thought on learning of the location of the Beckham Bash was wondering what GTO stands for, calling to my mind the Pontiac muscle car). Once it became obvious that Beckham would not be attending in Orlando, I jumped on an early flight from Cleveland to Atlanta, picked up a rental car and headed thirty-ish miles south to Griffin.

There was a good turnout for Tim’s big day at the GTO. I’d estimate over a hundred friends, team mates (not mutually exclusive of course), family and a handful of media members were on hand. The event even had a sponsor (a local bank) and an emcee.

beckham_intv.jpgAs the clock closed in on zero hour (2pm, the start of the Draft broadcast), the energy in the place grew. Tim had said that he had heard from R.J. Harrison that morning, and that the call from the Rays’ Scouting Director had him “wanting to do backflips in my bedroom.” So, the expectation was that Tim was about to become the first overall pick. When Beckham’s name was mentioned by Peter Gammons as being the player with the most upside in the Draft, the room erupted with applause. Moments later, when ESPN broke for commercial, there were groans as the room realized they’d have to wait a little longer to hear Tim’s name called.

The emcee introduced Tim and his family, I guess for the benefit of those of us who were not friends or family. Tim’s father, Jimmy Beckham, he introduced as the “Earl Woods of Griffin.” He followed that with, “Of course, Earl only had Tiger, but Jimmy has two: Tim and Jeremy.” Jeremy is Tim’s older brother, a senior second baseman at Georgia Southern and a draft hopeful as well. There’s a third Beckham, Steven, who may end up being drafted in two years himself.

beckham_hug_jeremy.jpgWhen the big moment came, and Commissioner Bud Selig called Tim’s name, the room erupted, pinning the audio monitor on my camera with the sheer volume of the noise. Tim jumped up, hugged first Jeremy, then his father, mother Ella and Steven. He quickly donned a Rays’ jersey with his name and number 1 on the back, then did an interview with a local TV station and finally, with

beckhamr_rtv.jpgI found myself wondering what that must feel like: you’re a high school senior and you hear your name called as the first pick, ahead of literally thousands of other players. The joy was obvious on his face. It was also obvious that Tim does not lack for confidence. One of the reporters asked him what his goals were. His response: “First to make the big leagues. Then to be an All-Star, and finally, to be a Hall-of-Famer.” Lofty goals for an 18-year-old, but in that moment, I can certainly understand Tim’s feeling that way.

As for Jeremy, he was also drafted – and by the Rays as well – on day two of the draft (502 picks after his brother – college seniors don’t have much leverage, it’s not like they can stay in school another year). I can just imagine the Beckham brothers, themselves imagining forming a double-play combo for the Rays in a couple of years.

I look forward to catching up with Tim, and maybe Jeremy too, sometime in the not-too-distant future, on a minor league field somewhere. The Draft dream has been realized, now they get to work on achieving that Major League dream.

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