GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No one saw this coming, certainly no one in head coach Tim Corbin’s tight-knit Vanderbilt baseball program. And certainly not top freshman right-hander Tyler Beede who with a different mindset last summer could have deposited a big check and be playing professional baseball right now instead of toiling for the Commodores.
No one saw this coming, especially, perhaps, Corbin, who has elevated the Vanderbilt program into elite status. The Commodores qualified for the last eight NCAA Regional tournaments and four Super Regional berths since Corbin took over in 2003. Last year they made their first appearance at the College World Series in Omaha, where they went 2-2.
Beede wasn’t a part of that record-setting Vanderbilt team of a year ago. He was still finishing up a star-studded career at Lawrence Academy in Auburn, Mass., in the spring of 2011 and watching the Commodores’ successes from afar.
He had already committed to Vanderbilt and Corbin, but no one really expected to ever see the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander on Vanderbilt’s Nashville, Tenn., campus. He was going to go pro, for sure.
Sure enough, Beede was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 21st overall pick of the first round of last June’s MLB amateur draft, but that’s where the speculation stopped and history was made. Beede became the first first-round selection in the Blue Jays’ 34 year draft history to decide to go to college. He left a $2.3 million signing bonus on the table.
“I’m definitely in the right place and I knew it the first day I stepped on campus,” Beede said last week before the Commodores opened a three-game Southeastern Conference series against top-ranked Florida. “It’s been great being here and I’ve a learned a whole lot from Coach Corbin and DJ (pitching coach Derek Johnson) and just a lot from the other guys, and it’s been great and I’m really happy here.”
But, once again, no one saw this coming. After a 2011 season in which the Commodores finished 54-12 overall (25-11 in the SEC) and finally finished a season in Omaha, these are not happy times in Nashville. Vanderbilt was 7-14 overall and 0-3 in SEC play after getting swept by the Gators and losing to Evansville before hosting SEC rival Georgia for three games this weekend.
It’s safe to say this isn’t what Beede signed up for, but neither did anyone else.
“We’re progressing and we played a very difficult schedule right off the bat,” Corbin said, pointing to three-game series losses to No. 2 Stanford and No. 27 Oregon to start the season. “There are no excuses; we just got off on the wrong foot. I think Stanford sent us reeling a little bit, but for good reason; they’re a really good team and we kind of lost our confidence.”
But you have to think Beede is scratching his head a little bit more than most, and make no mistake; he’s struggled in his first season playing high-level college baseball. Through Vanderbilt’s first 21 games, he had made five appearances (two starts) and was 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA with a .342 batter’s against average.
“My last few outings have been pretty good,” Beede said last week, before giving up five earned runs in five innings in the Commodores’ 8-2 loss in the Florida series finale on Sunday. “I’m just trying to get my confidence back and obviously I haven’t been doing too good, but that’s just a learning experience in college and learning how to make adjustments on the run, and trusting yourself and the defense behind you. Everything will be fine, so yeah, I’m feeling confident.”
In a preseason news release, Corbin said of Beede “Tyler is a young man that we have known since his 9th grade year. He has a very good foundation for pitching. He is one of those kids with a great acumen for the entire game of baseball. … His investment in the game and his ability to throw strikes with several pitches will allow him to be a very good (pitcher).”
During the summer of 2010, Beede kept busy by competing in the Perfect Game National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Aflac All-American Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego. He was also at the Area Code Games and the East Coast Pro Showcase that summer.
In all, Beede participated in 18 PG events, including numerous WWBA and BCS Finals tournaments with Farrah’s Builders, Canes Baseball and Syracuse Sports Zone.
“It gave us exposure and every high school kid who plays in Perfect Game gets great exposure to schools in the SEC like Vanderbilt and Florida,” he said. “It ended up leading me to Vanderbilt and that’s one of the first places Coach Corbin saw me play, was at a Perfect Game event. Those events were very beneficial and it’s a day and age where the showcases and the summer ball are what kids are doing now.
“Perfect Game was very big for me and every other kid in high school. I was very thankful for it.”
The 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft came and went over a three-day period last June, and by the time the dust had cleared in mid-August, almost all of the first-round selections had signed for big money to start playing professionally.
There was one, and only one, exception, and that was Beede. Now he’s playing in the SEC and it’s pure speculation to consider if he would be doing any better at the minor league level.
“It’s quite a jump and just learning that these college hitters are really good. If you make a mistake they’re going to hit it,” Beede said. “You just have to make sure you improve and try to get better each week and learn what you need to do. If you stick with your strengths and trust in your stuff and keep the ball down, you’ll be fine.”
One thing is certain. Beede feels like he was ready for the next level after taking part in the 18 PG events he attended between 2008 and 2011.
“It prepares you for this level, exactly where we’re playing at right now,” he said. “You know the other guys in the SEC because you played against them before, and played with them, so it gets you ready to play against SEC type of competition. It’s definitely great preparation for that.”