Monday morning, Kyle Beam woke up and reported to his first day of work at Beam Excavating and A-1 Septic Tank Service.
By the end of the day, Beam had a new job: professional baseball player.
Beam, a 2013 graduate of Hood River Valley High School and a former standout on the Eagles’ varsity baseball team, signed a professional contract as an undrafted free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers this week, a Major League Baseball (MLB) club located in Milwaukee, Wis., realizing a lifelong dream to play pro ball. He’ll start off competing in the Arizona League, a rookie league in the minors down in Phoenix, Ariz. His first game is this Saturday.
“I’m really excited, obviously; it’s something I’ve been working for my entire life,” he said early Wednesday evening via phone, having landed a couple hours before in Phoenix after the Brewers whisked him away from Hood River. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community, my coaches, and my family.”
‘I’m really excited, obviously; it’s something I’ve been working for my entire life. I couldn’t have done it without the support of the community, my coaches, and my family.’
Before that phone call, however, Beam thought his dream was over.
Beam just finished up his senior season at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where he played Division I ball for the Monarchs and majored in criminal justice. In his two years at ODU (Beam transferred after playing his freshman and sophomore years at Lane Community College in Eugene), Beam, a catcher, started 54 games, attaining a batting average of .222 and tallying 30 RBIs and seven home runs. In his junior year, Beam recorded a .984 fielding percentage with 100 putouts and 27 assists.
After wrapping up his college baseball career this spring, he watched “bits and pieces” of the MLB draft, which started June 12, and waited, unsure of whether he would be taken or not. His name never came up on the board, but Beam took it in stride.
“I thought I was done and I accepted that,” he said. “I was moving forward, I got a job, and I was blessed enough to get another opportunity.”
Beam moved back home to Hood River with his parents Mark and Terri Beam and got a job working as a laborer at his cousin Chad’s excavation and septic service business. His first day of work was scheduled to be June 19. On Friday, June 16, though, Beam said he received a call from the Brewers, asking if he was still healthy and still interested in playing. He said yes to both, and the Brewers requested he fill out some medical forms first for the club to review.
On Monday, still without a contract, Beam went to work, easing into his new job with an emergency pumping of a septic tank first thing in the morning. When he got off work, the Brewers called back, saying his medical forms were in order, and offered to sign him.
“I had a one-day glimpse of the real world,” he joked.
Crystal Beam, who operates the business with her husband Chad, was amused at how Kyle’s day started compared to how it ended.
“I think it’s so hilarious that night he got the call. Can you imagine that?” she said with a laugh.
Chad noted Kyle “got broke in well” his first day with the septic emergency, among other duties, and Crystal also characterized him as a hard worker at the company, even if only for the one day.
“He’s a darn good worker; I told him and I told Chad that it’s part of God’s plan. He’s going to appreciate every day he walks onto the ball field. We’ll miss him, though,” she said, and added, “We’re hiring!”
Mark said his son was back in town for about a week before he got the call, which he said was a pleasant surprise after the draft.
“It’s kind of a surreal feeling, because he’s worked his whole life to get that call… when you see people work so hard for something and it finally comes, it makes it all worth it,” he said.
Before professional baseball and college baseball, in high school, Beam started all four years (2010-13) for the Eagles, playing the same position he did in college (he also played football in high school). While the HRV baseball program was not as successful then as it has been the past few seasons (the team never won a conference title or advanced past the first round of the 5A state tournament during Beam’s tenure), Beam shined on the Eagles’ roster. Despite a failure to advance in the playoffs, other coaches around the state took notice: Beam was named First Team All-State catcher his junior and senior years and was named the 5A Player of the Year his final season. In his senior campaign, Beam recorded an absurd batting average of .506, racking up seven home runs and 34 RBIs.
Beam joins the list of several local athletes who have signed with Major League Baseball teams over the years, most notably Jeff Lahti, a 1975 alum who won a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982, and Hood River High School alum Bobby Gene Smith, who played for several MLB clubs throughout the 1950s and 60s (Smith passed away in 2015).
For HRV Baseball Head Coach Erich Harjo, however, Beam is the first athlete he’s coached who has signed with an MLB team. He is not surprised that the Brewers wanted Beam, calling him the best player he’s ever coached, noticing his talent from the beginning.
“Awesome, it feels really good,” he said about the signing of his former player, who is also his neighbor in Hood River. “I’m just happy for him and happy for his family. “This guy has pro material written all over him. I saw that his freshman and sophomore year (of high school).”
Harjo remembers Beam as a “very fundamental-type player,” a power hitter who was particularly strong on defense, noting, “In my mind, I haven’t seen a better throwing arm on a catcher in the state of Oregon in my tenure.” He also remembers someone who never relied solely on his talent, a player who put a lot of sweat equity into developing his game.
“He’s just a great kid too… he deserves everything he gets. He puts in the time and the work and has an extremely good work ethic,” Harjo noted.
The work that Beam has to put in is far from over, of course. He’ll be among other young, hungry players wanting to prove themselves, with the ultimate goal of getting called up to “The Show.” Beam doesn’t know what will happen, other than that he will try his hardest to be one of those athletes who get that call.
“If you move up, you move up. If you don’t you don’t… it’s really tough, super competitive,” he explained. “I’ll give it everything I’ve got.”