The dream came true for Tyler Beede on June 6, 2011. With the No. 21 pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected the 6-foot-4 right-hander out of Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. At 19 years old, he was slotted to sign for $1,332,000. For most teenagers, the decision would be made. Sign the contract. But Tyler still had options to weigh, and big ones.
Beede was signed to play his college ball at baseball powerhouse, Vanderbilt University. If he pitched the way he and others expected, a College World Series was in his future and he could solidify himself as perhaps the top pick in the 2014 draft. What Tyler didn’t know was how big of a decision this was besides just baseball.
After nearly two months of speaking with his parents, people around professional baseball and his college coach Tim Corbin, Beede opted to play for the Commodores.
“Ultimately, I just stuck with my gut and I really trusted the opportunity I had with Vanderbilt and that value with the education and opportunity it presented and just fully confident going there was the best decision,” Beede said to NBCSportsBayArea.com. “Now obviously looking back, it was the best decision I could have made at the time.”
Two of the Giants’ top picks in the last three drafts have come from Vanderbilt — Beede and outfielder Bryan Reynolds in 2016. Every year they are in contention for a ring and have churned out draft talent like John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats do for the NBA. And with their legendary coach Corbin, it all starts with the mind.
“When you go there as a player, you think ‘How can I get better here on the field?’ The guys that go there are very talented on the field and they’re probably the best players coming out of their high school and they’ll come in and compete, but what Corbin values so much is developing character traits to these guys — making sure they’re good leaders, making sure they’re prepared for life after baseball, life off the field so they can be good husbands one day, good dads and just making sure guys are prepared for pro ball,” Beede explains.
“I think being able to develop those character traits allows you to have success at the next level and really take what the game’s bringing you whether it be adversity, failures and successes and really be able to handle them maturely and help the team win on the field, in the dugout and off the field as well.”
When Beede arrived at Vanderbilt, he admittedly felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. He was a first-round pick who turned down over $1 million, it was up to him to lead the charge right away as a freshman and be perfect on the hill. In his head, he created unattainable goals and the pressure mounted. As a freshman, Beede pitched in 16 games, starting 11, and went 1-5 with a 4.52 ERA.
“Obviously after I got drafted and went there, the expectations were externally and internally huge and the worst thing I did was put more pressure on myself to live up to any bit of expectations that people were putting on me,” Beede said. “Having access to Twitter, I think every human is susceptible to hearing what people say about you negatively and you kind of let it sink in, so for me I always wanted to please others and wanted to do well, mostly for other people, and then when I wasn’t doing well it just kind of affected the way I went about the game, the way I went about treating people because it was my life.”
Let that last part sink in: it was my life. There’s something about athletes where from a young age, an identity is born. You’re an athlete, you’re a baseball player, you’re nothing more. Beede knew he was more, much more. But like so many other big-name athletes, all everyone else saw him as was a big guy who can throw a baseball 97 miles per hour.
“For me it was always trying to shake that identity of that’s not just who I am. I’m much more than just a baseball player,” Beede says. “It took until really my first year of pro ball to identify myself as, I play the game of baseball and it’s something I love to do but it’s not everything that I am, it’s not everything that I’m about, so it allowed me to take some of the pressure off in terms of succeeding and more so when I go out there I compete but I compete for a different reason.
“I still love the game and I want to win, but if I have a bad outing it’s not going to determine whether I’m happy off the field and have that joy when I go see my fiancé or if my family’s in town and I see them.”
None of this would have happened if Beede’s Vanderbilt career was only smooth sailing. He bounced back his sophomore year with a dominant showing, going 14-1 with a 2.32 ERA, setting himself up for the plan to work out and be a top pick in the next year’s draft. But then in his junior year, he took a step back statistically. Beede went 8-8 his final year at Vanderbilt with a 4.05 ERA.
“Honestly, the biggest takeaway for me was going through the adversity that I went through, the failure, the ups and downs and really trying to handle that part of the game,” Beede said. “It was huge when I went into pro ball because you’re obviously learning that in college and being under the spotlight it helps you when you get to this level to just handle things at a quicker rate in terms of, ‘Hey let’s move on from that bad start and let’s continue to work.’
“College really allowed me to see the game from a different perspective and really grasp how much I really appreciate playing the game each day.”
Beede has recently taken up to writing on a blog he calls, “Finding Center.” There is a large theme to his writing has been reflecting on his failures and how that has set himself up for success. He even shared getting to a rough patch in college where his love for baseball was dwindling while fighting to be perfect.
“I really value vulnerability and transparency. Being on an athletic perspective and being on this side of things with baseball I think people, even fellow athletes and my peers, need to hear someone who has been through it,” Beede said. “Anybody who hasn’t gone through any failure needs to read something like that because it’s bound to happen to everybody.
“You’re going to go through ups and downs and if somebody, like me for example, has gone through it once and can tell a story about going through it and persevering and finding the joy for the game again, I think it can help some people out.”
The ability to outwardly express himself is even more personal and rewarding for Beede. After years of holding everything in and not wanting to show a side to him that can be seen as a weakness, he now types it out for others to learn from as well or even melodizes his message through his music.
“I think through college my downfall was really trying to internalize everything and figure things out on my own and thinking I got to this level by myself so I’m going to get through these hurdles and these failures when in reality I needed so many more people to get me through that.
“For me, being able to put it down on paper, type it out into a blog post or whatever, it helps me get things off my chest and it also helps other people understand it’s not an easy process and what they’re going through is completely normal and it happens to everybody and no matter what, things are going to get better. This game will always find a way to love you back at the end of the day,” Beede said.
Three years after going No. 21 to the Blue Jays, Beede’s plan paid off. The Giants took him with the No. 14 pick in the 2014 draft. Beede signed for $2,613,200. Even as he climbs up the ranks and is on the doorstep of the bigs, Beede looks back at what truly took him to this point.
“This is a journey, it’s a process and it doesn’t happen over night. I think being able to take these years in my life and just learn through these ups and downs and to be able to grow and just move forward and be determined to make it to that next step is going to make it even more gratifying.”
The talent has always been there for the Giants’ top prospect. It took him growing in his baseball classroom on and off the field at a prestigious university, where he also just happened to meet his fiancé during the College World Series on Twitter, to perhaps be the next homegrown star at AT&T Park.
Numbers don’t lie, but for Tyler Beede, the game is so much more.
Check back for Part 2 of our conversation with Tyler Beede and the entire Q+A coming soon.