While it didn’t take long for Griffin (Ga.) High shortstop Tim Beckham to sign with the Rays for a resounding $6.15 million, it did take some time for him to collect his first extra-base hit as a pro.
Beckham and his Rookie-level Princeton teammates were in Burlington, N.C., last night to face the Royals in an Appalachian League contest. A contingent of Baseball America staffers was on hand to catch the first overall pick in action. Before the game, he was in usual form: quiet, polite and honest. He was quick to point out that he was scuffling and trying to figure things out, which was evident in his .167/.250/.167 line heading into the game.
But in Monday’s game, the 18-year-old Beckham showed a player making a rebound, rather than diving deeper into a rookie slump. In his first at-bat, he grounded out to shortstop on the first pitch, but showed an adjustment in his second trip. He worked a deeper count and smoked a double into the left-field corner for his first professional extra-base hit.
In his third at-bat, Beckham grounded out to short again, but got down the first-base line in 4.2 seconds. In his fourth at-bat, he collected his second hit, an infield single, when he got down the line in 4.3 seconds—and Burlington shortstop Yeldrys Molina held the ball just a split-second too long. Beckham’s fifth and final at-bat resulted in a called third strike that visibly frustrated the youngster. He realized, too late, that he shouldn’t have let the pitch go by.
Beckham, who served as Princeton’s DH, finished the night 2-for-5 with a two-run double and two runs scored, raising his averages to .191/.264/.213 through 47 at-bats.
After Princeton sealed the 9-6 victory, a crowd gathered outside the visitor’s locker room, waiting for Beckham to emerge and perhaps sign an autograph or two. He did better than that. Seldom seen from a bonus baby, Beckham stuck around to oblige all autograph seekers, until a Rays official was practically pushing him toward the bus.
He even knelt with a young boy to have his picture taken by the boy’s parents, and he accepted a gift from a opposing player’s mother, who asked him to sign a ball that was in Princeton manager Joe Szekely’s possession. The ball would be auctioned off for charity, she said, and Beckham didn’t hesitate to sign.
After the autograph session and on the way to the bus, Beckham did make time for a few comments and reminded us once again that he is just 18 years old.
"Everything’s faster," he said of the transition to professional baseball. "I’ve gotta get my front foot down quicker. When I have trouble, that’s what I’m doing wrong."
Beckham’s older brother Jeremy, a second baseman from Georgia Southern, was selected in the 17th round by the Rays and is Tim’s teammate with Princeton. Having Jeremy around has eased the transition for the younger Beckham.
"We look at each other, and everything that’s going wrong we tell each other," Tim said. "It helps to have somebody there to make it more comfortable."