Keeping It Simple At The Dish

Refined Approach Helps Turks’ Beam Become All Star

Written by Greg Madia
Daily News Record

Harrisonburg, VA –  Tony Beam came to Harrisonburg with a clear focus.

“I just wanted to hit the ball where it was pitched instead of trying to drive the ball all the time,” Beam said Thursday.

In an era of baseball when it’s hard to watch a Major League Baseball game and not hear the play-by-play man and analyst engaging in conversation with lingo like “launch angle” and “exit velocity,” Beam is successfully refining his approach to something more basic with the Harrisonburg Turks this summer.

Through 25 games, the Hutto, Texas native, who is a rising senior catcher at the University of Texas-San Antonio, is hitting .379 – the fourth-best batting average in all of the Valley Baseball League.

He is also one of six Turks that will play for the VBL South in Sunday’s All-Star Game at Veterans Memorial Park along with Wake Forest pitcher Chris Farish, East Carolina pitcher Davis Kirkpatrick, Eastern Florida State College pitcher Mason Studstill, Auburn third baseman Brendan Venter and Wingate outfielder Ty Andrus.

First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m.

“I’ve worked on not getting pull happy,” Beam said. “It’s just about taking the base hits when they come. … I’ve come to the plate with a plan, instead of just coming up to swing and I’m working in my at-bats, especially in certain situations and that’s something I can take back to UTSA with me.”

In the spring, Beam hit .297 with four homers and 11 RBIs over 158 at-bats for the Roadrunners. This summer in 95 at-bats, his average is up 82 points, he has six doubles and 16 RBIs, but is without a home run for the Turks.

Beam said his coaches at UTSA don’t often discuss launch angle or exit velocity, and do talk about a gap-to-gap approach. But he said naturally throughout a college season, he might try to do too much at the plate depending on how many runners are on base or what inning the game is in.

“I’ve been playing baseball for 18 years, and this summer I really feel like is where I’ve made the biggest steps at the plate,” Beam said. “And I have a plate presence.”

“I understand when I can tone it back and in which counts I can let loose and try to get my swing off.”

Farish and Venter are both Texas natives like Beam, and both have impacted the Turks positively since arriving to the team in mid-June.

Farish, from Houston, appeared in 24 games for the Demon Deacons, and ha a 5.89 earned-run average, but for Harrisonburg, he’s 1-0 with 25 strikeouts in 15 innings while sporting a 2.40 ERA.

Venter, from Flower Mound, Texas, is hitting .250 with a home run and eight RBIs for the Turks.

“I had a few other options with summer spots to play in either the Northwoods League or Cal Ripken League, but they all fell through late,” Venter said. “But then the (Turks) contacted me saying they needed a third baseman, so I hopped on the first plane I could find, and I’ve loved it so far.”

He hit safely in five of his first six games in the Valley League.

“I’ve been hitting the ball hard,” Venter said. “But I was pretty surprised when I found out I made the all-star tam. I’m pretty happy.”

As for the two pitchers, Kirkpatrick and Studstill , both lead the league in key statistics. Kirkpatrick, a right-handed reliever, has the lowest ERA in the VBL, at 0.42 out of pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, and Studstill, a right-handed starter, is tied for the league lead in wins with four.

Kirkpatrick altered his pitching motion from an over-the-top release to a sidearm delivery, and Studstill, who was a 22nd-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians last year, said his changeup has improved as he’s thrown it moe this summer.

“It just never was really one of my good pitches,” Studstill said. “Now, it’s probably one of my best pitches sine I’ve been trying to master it.”

Sunday’s festivities will start with batting practice at 3:10 p.m., before a 60-yard dash contest at 4:50 p.m. The home run derby begins at 5:20 p.m.

Contact Greg Madia at 574-6296 or
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