If I have learned anything during the 12 years that I have followed the Diamondbacks it is this, “you never know what you may find and everybody has a story.” As I have been doing for the past month, I was again working on the Now Hitting web site trying to get things moved from the old site to the new and update those areas that had gone neglected far too long. Today I was working on the draft picks for the Diamondbacks. I began with the inaugural draft of 1996, the first ever in Diamondbacks history and continued on through the 2006 draft just last June. Each year got its own page so that visitors to the site could see a progression of draft strategy and also to see which current Diamondbacks came up through the system and where they were drafted. Each year for the past 12 I have made careful notes of who was picked in each round and other tidbits of information. Some of this data is gathered through Major League Baseball, some through Minor League Baseball, and some through the hometown newspapers and fan sites that crop up now and again about a player. The majority of these draft picks were once stars on their high school or college teams and they have very dedicated fans that provide all kinds of information. This can be interesting reading and sometimes very helpful. For example, I have a personality flaw that causes me to freak out if my data is incomplete or inaccurate. This manifest itself today when I realized that several of the sources I used for the 2006 draft had missing data specifically the weight of some of the draft picks. That sounds trivial and inconsequential and I should have just put “N/A’ in the field like others had done. I couldn’t do that though. I had know what the weight of these players were so I began what amounted to several hours of research as I went through each draft selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks that was missing a number for their weight. I didn’t think it would take me too long and I thought my search would be relatively trivial. What I didn’t expect was where this journey would take me.
In the 14th round with the 417th overall selection the Arizona Diamondbacks selected a right-handed pitcher from Panola College who had transferred to University of Louisiana-Lafayette. This was the second time Beck had been drafted, the first being 2004 when the Toronto Blue Jays made him their 43rd round pick with the 1285th overall selection. A diagnosis of elbow tendonitis sidelined Beck and the Blue Jays relinquished their rights to him. A young man battles back from an injury that could have eliminated his dream of playing professional baseball would have made a wonderful story by itself but that would just touch the surface.
Chad Beck comes from a family who is very devoted to each other and to baseball. No one was more dedicated than his mother Tammy and father Kelly. Like many parents they wanted the best for not only their oldest son Chad but also his younger brother Casey Beck. (Casey in his own rights is a good baseball player and he too was selected in the 2006 amateur draft in the 8th round by the Atlanta Braves.) The Beck boys grew up loving baseball. Their love of the game combined with hard work and obvious talent made them wonder whether a career in baseball could be possible. The boys may have wondered but mother Tammy was convinced. She had a strong conviction that both of her sons would one day wear a Major League Baseball uniform. She dreamt of the day when she would see her boys reach the pinnacle of the sport that they loved. Tragically, Tammy will never be able to see her dream come true. Not because her sons do not have the talent but rather because she passed away on July 27, 2005. While watering flowers in her yard Tammy Beck suffered an aneurysm and was rushed to the hospital. Shortly afterwards she would suffer a stroke and would die at the age of 41. Chad had been the one to call 911 for help when his mother had collapsed and he stood at her bedside in the hospital. Tammy Beck was loved not only by her family but by her community as well. It was estimated that over 1,000 people tried to attend her funeral services. Many were turned away because of lack of room in the church.
Since that time Chad Beck has rehabilitated his arm to the point where the Diamondbacks took a chance and drafted him. In his first season as a professional baseball player Beck played in the short-season Northwest League for the Yakima Bears. He appeared in 16 games and started 2. He amassed a record of 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA. He struck out 45 hitters while allowing only 18 walks in 40.1 innings. So a little research to find out that a 14 round draft pick weighed 230 pounds left me feeling a much greater sense of appreciation of what it takes to be a baseball player. And while other players in the 2006 draft may get more press and their names described with phrases as “blue chip” or “can’t miss”; it will be Chad Beck who has the best story and perhaps the best reason to try and succeed. He is not just pitching for himself; he is pitching for the dreams of his mother who always wanted the best for him. In her eyes, he will always be a first round draft pick.