Beam enjoying every second of the big leagues

T.J. Beam left Ole Miss after the 2003 baseball season hoping to one day play in the major leagues. On June 16, 2006, he got the call he'd been dreaming about for years. Richard Cross of Ole Miss Sports Marketing and the Ole Miss Radio Network takes us to Yankee Stadium for a visit with the latest UM baseball player to make it big.

NEW YORK - Remember those feelings you had as a kid when you woke up on Christmas morning? Anxious…yes. Excited…without a doubt! Curious…how couldn't you be? Maybe even a little nervous...but isn't that kind of what made it fun?

For Theodore Lester Beam, Jr., or T.J. if you prefer, Christmas this year came early. We've all heard of Christmas in July, but Christmas in June? For T.J., June will be just fine, thank you very much.

On Friday, June 16, around 9:30 p.m., T.J. Beam got a phone call from a number he didn't recognize.

"It was my head coach and he said 'Beam, you're going to the big leagues.' I was just in shock," said the 6-foot-7, 215-pound right-hander. "I had to drive back to the stadium, pack my bags and head for D.C. the next day."

He had pitched earlier that night for the Columbus Clippers, the Triple A affiliate of the New York Yankees, and was on his way to grab a bite to eat and crash for the night.

"I didn't know who was calling - it was an Ohio number and I didn't know anyone in Ohio. Glad I answered the phone."

So that began about a 48 hour whirlwind. Pack a bag in Columbus, where he had still not gotten settled, and head to Washington for an inter-league game against the Nationals at RFK Stadium. Arrive in Washington early Saturday morning and suit up in the Yankees' traveling grays. Hang out in the bullpen for six or so innings. Hear your number - now 58 - called, and get ready to pitch for the second time in less than eighteen hours. Make your major league debut. Record your first strike out. Give up your first home run. Oh well…just another day at the office.

In his debut in D.C., a lot happened on the mound.

"I got all the firsts out of the way at once…first home run allowed, first double allowed, first strike out, and I batted for the first time since junior college. That was ugly."

But it was his second outing, against the Philadelphia Phillies, where he notched his first milestone.

"I got my first win, and that was pretty special. Then I could just concentrate on pitching."

T.J., at 25-years-old the youngest of 13 pitchers on the current Yankees' pitching roster, gives a lot of credit for where he is now to his time at Ole Miss.

"There a lot of things I learned at Ole Miss from Coach Bianco and Kyle Bunn as far as how to play the game hard and how to make key pitches. I'll never forget the fact that I came back my senior year (2003) to try to get to the College World Series. I turned down an offer from the Phillies after my junior year and it looks like that turned out to be a good choice."

People who have spent any amount of time in Oxford know just how special it can be. Oxford has an aura, a draw that is sometimes hard to explain. It is that aura that has kept T.J.'s family, which calls Scottsdale, Ariz., home, still coming back three years later.

"My family loves Oxford and Ole Miss. They go back all the time, and I hope to get back soon myself. That's how Oxford is…everybody takes people in. It's a family environment and I made a bunch of friends when I was there."

The last three weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for Beam, one of three Rebels currently in the majors - David Dellucci with the Phillies and Bobby Kielty with the A's being the other two. In a week and a half homestand that spanned nine games, he pitched four times and allowed only one earned run, a solo homer to Carlos Beltran in a Yankees rout of the cross-town rival New York Mets. T.J.'s ERA currently stands, though, at a robust 12.15.

The problems came in his first and last outings. In his debut against the Nationals, T.J. gave up two earned runs, and in his Fourth of July appearance against Cleveland, he was rocked for six runs in the fifth inning after 2 outs in a 19-1 Yankee loss at Jacobs Field.

Despite a rough night on the hill against the Indians, Yankees manager Joe Torre had positive things to say about his young pitcher in his postgame press conference. When he went to the hill to pull T.J., he was nothing but positive.

"I wanted to let the kid know that this didn't mean anything," Torre said. "He has pitched well in close games, and that's basically what I told him. I wanted to make sure that he knew that I appreciate the things he's done in more competitive games."

There is no doubt that Major League Baseball is a different level than anything T.J. has seen before. But he feels like his time in the minors and instructional leagues has helped prepare him for the show. The biggest thing has been "just learning how to pitch…we banged my curveball for a slider and I have learned to throw a split-finger changeup. Learning how to throw two different pitches in the span of a year has really been big for me. Also moving to the bullpen has been good. I was in the bullpen my senior year at Ole Miss, but as a closer. I'm in a set-up role here. The Yankees already have a pretty good closer (Mariano Rivera), but it is great to just be on the field for the most storied franchise in baseball history."

In the business that is Major League Baseball, it is hard to know what the future holds for young players trying to break in to the bigs. The Yankees pitching staff has struggled this season, and if T.J. can settle into some consistency, and not give up six runs in an inning, he just might get to wear pinstripes for a while. The Yankees currently have seven players on the disabled list, and the trade deadline is nearing, so in a lot of ways T.J. is currently playing the waiting game.

But that isn't what he is worrying about.

"If you worry about what might happen all the time then it is hard to enjoy the experience," said Beam, who married his longtime girlfriend Lindsay after leaving Ole Miss. "I'm pitching for the New York Yankees. It's awesome, just awesome. You hear all the rumors about the big leagues - great stadiums everywhere, five-star hotels, charter jets - and they're all true. Playing in front of 55,000 fans a night is just incredible."

Brian Cashman, the general manager of the Yankees, may be the only man who knows just how long the dream will last for T.J. Beam. And for Cashman, the jury may still be out on Beam. Cashman did say, though, in a recent interview, that he was much more interested in finding more offense before the trading deadline than he was in replacing any pitchers.

"I've seen what is out there," Cashman was quoted as saying recently, "and I don't really think anybody has better young arms than we do."

For an organization with 26 world championships, that is a pretty glowing endorsement. And for T.J…well, he's just living a baseball player's dream.

"Pitching in Yankee Stadium is a dream come true," he said. "Growing up as a kid, everybody is Babe Ruth in their own mind or everyone is a Yankee or everybody wants to play in Yankee Stadium. This is pretty special. I am having a blast, and I just hope it lasts."

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