Speaking with Giants top prospect Tyler Beede, it became clear he is much more than a baseball player. Below is our full 25-minute conversation on all things on and off the field.
I want to actually go back before you were with the Giants. You were drafted by the Blue Jays No. 21 overall in 2011. If I’m a high schooler that’s pretty hard to turn down. How hard was that decision?
It was a extremely hard, man. Even looking back at it, it seems like yesterday and I’m just thinking back to my mindset, I was just so overwhelmed by the opportunity. I was really surprised, I thought I might go in the last two picks in the first round. That’s kind of what my expectations were, so to be picked higher than I was expected and to be taken by the Blue Jays was an extreme honor and just to go through that process, back then you had until August 15 to make a decision so I had two months of just really going back and forth on what I should do, talking it over with family members, with friends in the game, obviously with my college coach Tim Corbin and just really weighing the decision with the pros and cons. 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. And now obviously looking back, it was the best decision I could have made at the time.
I actually want to talk about Vanderbilt real quick. How does Vanderbilt do it? They’re always a powerhouse, so what is their secret to success?
Well I think they just really focus on the development of 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. 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.
Was that your mindset that long term if you grow off the field, that’s just going to make you a better player? Was that what you were thinking as far as Vanderbilt goes?
Yeah, I think even early on I wasn’t necessarily open to what I could have learned as far as off the field. Going there I knew the opportunity in the classroom, I knew it was a prestigious university, my education would continue along, but on the field I didn’t really think about developing those character traits and getting in the classroom at the baseball field and learning how to be a better leader, learning how to be a better teammate and develop those traits that would gain respect among teammates and come into pro ball and just try to be a player that’s working to get better each and every day. 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. 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,’ so 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.
It’s interesting because I just saw some of the writing you’ve been doing and it’s a big theme as far as learning through failure. Going to Vanderbilt, were you stuck on trying to be perfect and what flipped the switch?
Yeah man, 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. Having access to Twitter, and I think every human is susceptible to hearing what people say about you negatively that 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, ya know. I considered that my identity because people considered me just a baseball player, you were a first-rounder and now you’re this baseball player at Vanderbilt, so 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. 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. Just always being thankful for the opportunity and knowing that every time I get a chance to play, it’s just a chance to get better and go compete. It took those three years at Vanderbilt to really learn that about myself and I think that’s a very blessed opportunity for me to go through those ups and downs and learn that at such a young age.
With Twitter especially, I feel like that thinking is just putting you on the path to success. It’s not like your expectations are lessened. Especially with identity. You’re an athlete, you’ve been a baseball player your whole life and now everyone is expecting you to be in The Show tomorrow, but really facing those adversities have probably helped you get to The Show faster instead of just being perfect.
Yeah, absolutely man. 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. Knowing when I get there how much went into it, as opposed to maybe thinking it was an easier route than most would imagine. Being able to humanize ourselves, knowing it’s not an easy process, it’s not an easy game, it’s not easy to go through the failures of things and a lot of us pride ourselves in succeeding both for ourselves and for others, so when people are pulling for us we love to feel that support but when we’re doing bad we hate to hear any negativity so it’s just all about trusting your inner circle, trusting the people who have supported you and letting them know how much this process is a day-to-day grind and keep working towards that goal.
As far as your writing goes, No. 1 what prompted you to do that and No. 2 was it hard to be open? Just to be able to get your message out there and talk about failure and success, what’s your ultimate goal?
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. 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. I don’t think I’ve ever been a guy who wants to internalize and hold things back. 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.
That sounds like that’s a great outlet. And another outlet for you, Giants fans have learned about your music the last year or two. Was that a childhood passion? Did it help being where you were at Vanderbilt? How did that all get started?
Yeah man, it was kind of a mixture of a couple things. Genetically, my dad has always had that rhythmic kind of vibe to him where he always loved writing. To this day, before every start he writes me letters and pumps me up before starts and give me advice and it’s just our way of communicating dad to son. And then my stepdad is a musician, he plays in a band and plays the guitar, so I think a mixture of the two of them inspired my music passion. I went to a high school where my junior and senior year we had some international students who made some beats and that’s where I started my rap career —
There’s Yung Beedah right there.
That’s the origin of Yung Beedah. I don’t think it was great but over time I really found an outlet where I can share my beliefs, my faith, my struggles, my ups and downs, my feelings in just a unique way. Whether people like it or not, it’s just a way for me to put my words down on a unique platform that maybe people like and I can help people similar to my blog. I really care about putting my message out there because if it can help one person then it is valuable. That’s certainly why I’m thankful to be in this situation with this platform and being able to impact people’s lives. Whether I do that with music, writing, my play on the field and how I carry myself, that’s something that I focus on so music is certainly a big part of that for me.
Do you listen to your own music before games? Is it your own way of getting your mind right before a start?
(Laughs) No, I don’t think I ever really do. The only time I really listen to it is if my buddies will play it. The most rewarding times is when my buddies send me a Snapchat before a game and they’re playing one of my songs. I think one of the better moments I’ve had is last year I made about five songs on my growth with my faith and one of my buddies kind of had a conversion to Christianity based on one of the songs, so through music it has kind of allowed others to seek some more meaning as well. That’s one of the more gratifying parts of music, just having it impact people’s lives directly and seeing it happen right in front of you.
Sounds like you’re using your platform the right way, but the big question is, will Brandon Crawford use it when you’re in San Francisco?
(Laughs) That’s a great question. Yeah, we talk about it. He’s become one of my better friends on the team just based on him and I have similar things in common, so I’ll definitely bug him to do it one of these days, we’ll see. Hopefully I get up there first and he can work on the playlist after that.
I think you used music in some way while proposing. Am I right?
Yeah. So my fiancé, it was her big dream to be in a country music video and just through contacts of hers when she was acting when she was younger, I reached out to a director who was working with a country singer and needed someone for a country music video coincidentally and I lined it up so that I asked if I could get her in it and me as well. She got super excited when she got asked to be in it and obviously throughout that day she had no idea I was proposing. In the final scene we were slow dancing and I ended up giving her the whole spiel and I ended up proposing right there in front of her family, my family, and caught it all on the music video. Yeah, definitely really, really cool and it came out better than I think anyone expected so it was pretty awesome.
I’ve got to admit, you’re making every other guy look bad. That’s pretty legit, man.
(Laughs) She deserved it for sure.
I’m sure you're friends are all like, ‘Well thanks, what am I going to do now?’
(Laughs) Yeah, they’re coming to me for advice. I think I have some creative ideas after I pulled that out for her.
Going back to Twitter, I definitely heard about how you guys met on Twitter. That’s a whole other story in itself.
Crazy, man. I think that all goes back to making that decision to go to college. If I hadn’t gone to college, I don’t think I’d ever have met her and if we never went to the College World Series, I wouldn’t have met her. I was pitching in the College World Series and her parents were watching TV that night. Her dad’s a high school baseball coach and her mom thought I was pretty cute I guess and after that, I think her mom persuaded her to follow me on Twitter and from there, the rest is history. That’s kind of the day in age we live in now with social media connecting people together. I’m super thankful that A) I was in the College World Series and B) that anybody watching that thought of me as someone who could be of interest for their daughter. It worked out perfectly and I think there’s a little bit behind there more than what the story shows but it’s definitely a cool story.
Well you have a little experience now, so if you’re trying to tell your friends how to get into the DMs the right way, what are you saying? What are your keys?
(Laughs) Man, I wish I could tell ya. Being myself from the beginning was probably the key and then from there I think we just had similar things in common and she was willing to take a chance on me and come see me through professional baseball in the early days and we hit it off. It just worked out perfectly, man. I think we were equally as weird and equally as interested in each other. She loved baseball and I think that was the biggest thing with her coming out to see me in random cities across the country and whenever she felt like coming, she would visit and we just hit it off. From there, it was pretty simple after that.
(Laughs) Sounds like it was a lot more than just Twitter obviously.
(Laughs) Yeah, definitely.
This year at Triple-A, it’s a lot more hitter-friendly parks than last year in Richmond. How has that been as an adjustment?
Yeah, the adjustments have been start to start and I think they’ve been fine. I think just learning how to pitch in certain elevations, certain ballparks that ask for me to be a different style, but overall what I think I’ve tried to take away from the advice that I’ve gotten was just to continue to pitch the way I pitch. For me, thankfully I can trust my sinker to get me out of certain situations. If I’m giving up pop flies, they may be home runs, so for me it’s really just trying to force contact early and force ground balls. Overall, I’m happy with my ground ball rate. As a competitor, I’d like to strikeout more guys, but I think that will come down the road once I continue to learn certain sequences and trust my pitches in the zone. Each start has been a great learning experience. I haven’t had too many great outings where I feel completely successful at this level where I don’t feel a challenge. I certainly do feel a challenge each start and I think that’s a good thing. Now it’s just making sure I get better each start. I’m learning things from the bad starts and now really taking it into next start and I’m just trying to improve so I’m happy with the way things are going right now. I’m focusing on continuing to work on my fastball command and really forcing contact is what the Giants would like to see from me. As long as I can keep getting better and feel confident with my stuff, then if the call is made for me to come up, I can be ready for that level. I’m trusting in myself and my preparation and it’s been going well so far.
You talk about the ground ball rate, and at 56 percent it’s a lot higher than last year. Is that relying on the sinker? Is that relying on the ballpark? Or is that more of a mindset?
Yeah, just throwing in parks you don’t necessarily want to give up too many fly balls — I don’t really know if I’m exactly a ground-ball pitcher, I think it’s more so hitters in this league are really aggressive. They’re trying to get their pitch early and drive a ball. Guys are aggressive, I think that’s why I’m not striking out as many guys. At the next level I’m not going to say they’re more patient, but these guys are swinging early so my mindset is really if I’m going to throw inside, to make sure I’m sinking it in and make the hitter roll over. For the most part, I’ve just really focused on that part of the plate and letting hitters get themselves out. I don't necessarily think ground ball each at-bat. I’m thinking the bottom of the zone and if a guy rolls over, he rolls over and so being more efficient has allowed me to go deeper in a ballgame. I’ll take ground balls whenever I can get them, that’s for sure.
I feel like a lot of your success rolled over from a really successful spring training with the big league club. Was there one guy you kind of leaned in spring?
I think the best guy there was Matt Cain in terms of being vocal with his advice. Bumgarner’s always a guy who’s willing to give really good advice whenever you seek it from him. Cain being a guy who knowing he was going in there and competing for the fifth spot with Ty Blach and not necessarily myself, but just being there with him, he was always willing to give us any bit of advice to help us take our game to the next level. I’m really trying to implement those things where I see fit into my routine and the way I pitch on the field. It’s always beneficial. Seeing those guys pitch and listening to them talk has helped our game.
When Christian Arroyo was called up, it sounded like an amazing moment for the both of you. What was that like and was it almost a reminder of how much you can’t wait for that opportunity as well?
Yeah, a little bit of both. I was super happy for him because he was having so much success obviously and everyone saw it. He’s such a young guy, but he was ready for that moment and for him to come into our apartment as my roommate and tell me he was going up, I couldn’t be happier for him. And then at the same time, I was like, man I think I’m right there with him. I think my time is coming soon too and that was kind of a moment for me to step back and say, ‘Hey, be patient, continue to trust the process, continue to know that you have what it takes to pitch at that level and have success, but continue to know that you need to continue to work on things and be ready for when that moment comes.’ I’m excited for that moment, but it’s been really fun seeing him up there and have some clutch hits, play great defensively and I’m just happy he’s up there and continue to learn and develop at that level and be with the big club.
I have to ask you. There was a tweet that was sent out that definitely got some fans a little curious. It was a ‘Now you see me, now you don’t’ type of thing —
I gotta know, man. Was there more to that or are you just trying to mess with us?
(Laughs) No. I remember right after when I posted that I didn’t know what people were talking about —
(Laughs) No, no I remember the replies were just great. It was hilarious.
Yeah, I know. I just thought this is what the photo looked like. I was going from one pose to the next. Then, I was like, ‘Oh crap, I guess that does sounds a little manipulative.’ But yeah, that’s funny. I love messing with Twitter.
I had to ask, the replies were some pretty good Twitter humor.
I know, that’s funny. One of these days it’ll happen and maybe I’ll put something out there that will have some people wondering, so we’ll see.