LOS ANGELES—Tyler Beede arrived with his family at the Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles at the same time Kris Bryant and his family arrived Friday afternoon. Beede’s father, Walter, took a long, hard look at Bryant’s father, Mike.
“Spike! Spike Bryant!” Walter Beede said.
Mike Bryant returned the appraising stare. “Buzz?” he said.
It turns out, Mike Bryant and Walter Beede played with and against each other in Stan Musial ball in Massachusetts during the 1980s. Back then, Bryant thought Beede’s name was spelled, “Beatty,” so he never made the connection when Tyler Beede was drafted in the first round out of high school in Massachusetts and went on to stardom at Vanderbilt.
The two old teammates reconnected as part of a weekend in LA to honor their sons, who were among the three finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, along with North Carolina’s Colin Moran. The families spent Friday night getting to know each other at the swanky, exclusive Jonathan Club, where they were lodging courtesy of USA Baseball (which presents the Golden Spikes Award) and the Rod Dedeaux Foundation (which hosted an awards ceremony Saturday night in conjunction with USA Baseball).
On Saturday morning, the players, families and assorted baseball dignitaries reconvened at Dodger Stadium, where the Golden Spikes Award was to be presented to the nation’s top amateur baseball player live on MLB Network. Shortly before the announcement, Walter Beede and Mike Bryant stood in the third-base dugout recounting their reunion the previous night and reminiscing about their playing days.
“The apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” Walter Beede said, gesturing at Mike Bryant. “When I saw 31 jacks, it was no surprise.”
Kris Bryant set a BBCOR-era record with his 31 homers for San Diego this spring, earning him every major player of the year award this summer, including the Baseball America Player of the Year award. His father, who played two professional seasons in the Red Sox system, was also a slugger in his amateur days.
“Yeah, I hit some jacks. I swung wicked hahd,” Mike Bryant said, exaggerating his Boston-area accent.
Then Buzz nudged Spike and nodded toward the dais that had been erected on the field, in front of the dugout. “This is your moment coming up here,” the elder Beede said. “You’ve got to come see your kid get his award.”
Former major league all-star Bob Horner, who won the first Golden Spikes Award as an Arizona State star in 1978, made his way to the podium to present the 2013 award.
“This is the Heisman Trophy of college baseball,” Horner said. “It has huge significance.”
Then he announced that Kris Bryant was the 2013 Golden Spikes Award winner, completing his clean sweep of the award circuit. Bryant accepted a handshake from Moran, then a shake and a hug from Beede before making his way to the podium.
“Sitting with those guys right before they made the announcement, my heart was pounding a little bit—just really excited,” said Beede, the only rising junior of the trio (the other two were drafted in the top 10 picks this June and are already embarking upon professional careers). “But I was really happy for Kris when his name was called; he’s such a deserving guy. Both those guys had great years, and to be sitting next to them was an honor in itself.”
Later, Bryant admitted he was a bit nervous about dropping the large trophy, but he didn’t show it.
“That’s a very expensive trophy!” Bryant said. “It was a pretty cool day. My summer keeps getting better. It’s just been an incredible summer for me, going around the country winning these awards. This one is a very nice one to add to the collection. Both of these guys are very deserving of it, they had awesome seasons. I had a good one too, and I’m very pleased with what’s come my way.”
After the award presentation, the group made its way back through the tunnels of Dodger Stadium—a number of them stopping to take photos of Jackie Robinson’s framed No. 42 jersey along the way—and up the elevator to the Stadium Club, where they ate lunch. For Moran and his parents, Bill and Diane, it was the first trip to Dodger Stadium, and Moran described the experience as “awesome.”
Then it was back to the Jonathan Club, where the players mingled with former big leaguers like Jack McDowell, Scott Brosius Mark Prior and Eric Munson, during a reception before dinner.
“I need to go up and introduce myself,” Moran said at one point. “I’m a little nervous around some of them—I’ve watched them on TV. But hopefully I get a chance to talk to some of them.”
Bryant said Horner gave him some advice about playing in Wrigley Field, where the No. 2 overall pick by the Cubs will be playing his home games someday soon.
“He said, ‘At Wrigley, make sure you get the ball up if the wind’s blowing out there. But if it’s blowing in, you’re going to have a tough day,’” Bryant said. “He was telling some stories (Friday) night at dinner. It was good to hear from a guy of his stature, who’s had a great big league career. I’m a sponge right now, absorbing all this and having a great time.”
It continued during the awards dinner, where Bryant sat next to McDowell—the former Cy Young Award winner and national champion during his days at Stanford—while Beede and Moran shared a table with Brosius and Horner.
Brosius, who led Linfield (Ore.) College to the Division III national championship this spring, received the USA Baseball Rod Dedeaux Coach of the Year award for leading the 18-and-under national team to a world championship in 2012.
“Few people ever achieve the kinds of things Rod Dedeaux achieved, both on and off the field,” said Brosius, a former World Series MVP with the Yankees, during his acceptance speech. “But he gives us something to shoot for.”
Dedeaux, who won 11 national championships as Southern California’s head coach, is also one of the most important figures in USA Baseball history, helping the national team program flourish and coaching the 1984 inaugural Olympic team. So the Dedeaux Foundation’s partnership with USA Baseball feels natural. This was the first year of a five-year deal between USA Baseball and the Dedeaux Foundation, which continues Dedeaux’s legacy by supporting youth baseball and softball programs in underserved areas.
The room was packed with influential USC products, including emcee George Grande (the Cincinnati Reds broadcaster), Prior, Munson and Tom House. But the Trojan-heavy affair still made time to honor crosstown rival UCLA for winning its first national championship. College World Series Most Outstanding Player Adam Plutko made a gracious acceptance speech with three teammates standing behind him.
The dinner also featured video tributes to Jackie Robinson, and to all three Golden Spikes Award finalists. Then Bryant was honored once more, making his way to the stage as everyone in the ballroom came to their feet.
“Wow. That was my first standing ovation ever, so thank you guys!” Bryant said.
It was a great moment—one of many during those two days in Los Angeles, where Bryant and Moran got one more opportunity to celebrate their brilliant collegiate careers before turning their attention to pro ball for good.
“It’s been a great memory,” Bryant said. “I’ll be able to tell a great story for the rest of my life. I mean, the Jonathan Club—who gets to stay at that kind of hotel? You can’t even walk through the lobby if you’re not wearing the correct dress code. It’s been a great time.”
Beede hopes he gets a chance to make the trip again next year.
“You can’t make it a goal of yours, but in the back of your head, being here at the end of the year is something you want to experience,” he said. “It’s kind of a celebration to a great year. It’s pretty surreal being here. You walk in the first day, you show up to the Jonathan Club, it’s just this prestigious place. To go through this experience with those guys, to be here, is just unbelievable. It’s something I never expected to happen this year. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s something I’d like to slow down and try to remember all of it, because it’s definitely memorable.”