Rule 5 Pickup Had a Remarkable Off-Season

VERO BEACH, Florida- It has been a dizzying 16 months for Beau Dannemiller. During that time he (a) joined the Dodger organization (b) resurrected his career from the doldrums (c) got married and (d) literally rose to new heights while performing an invaluable public service after a hurricane.

Beau's a righthanded relief pitcher who had been with the Rockies since they selected him down in the 16th round of the 2001 draft after he had pitched for Kent State University. He'd had a great start, then, as he admits, lost his way. So, the Rockies didn't protect him and the Dodgers plucked him in the Rule 5 draft held in December 2003.

"I tore up the Northwest League the first year, then the next two I lost my focus and didn't do well. The Dodgers must have seen me one of the days when I threw 95 and when they drafted me, I knew it was time to take stock of myself. I've always had high expectations and I knew I was going to an organization of great pride and one loaded with good pitchers "

Beau dedicated himself to getting better and did so last spring training. He was assigned to Vero Beach where he had the good fortune to come under the tutelage of Kenny Howell and, every bit as important, meet Cheree Procnow.

Of Kenny, he says, "With respect to the other good coaches I've had, there's nobody like Kenny. He can get into your head and make you think about what you're doing out there. I'd come off the field and he'd ask, 'What was your mind set on that batter?'. I'd tell him and he'd say, 'Well, try thinking this way .'That did so much for me. "

Equally as important, he and Cheree decided to get married just a few months after meeting. For those of you who would say, "Too quick," Beau answers simply, "When you know, you know."

Beau's formal Vero Beach mound debut was, well, a disaster. He imploded on the mound, giving up seven runs in a single inning. "After my good spring I got too complacent, "he admits. "That shook me up and it was time to focus again. "

That he did, slowly whittling down an ERA that looked like the national debt to 2.93 at the end. He just got better and better. In fact, there was a string of 25 innings in which he didn't allow a run. His assignments became increasingly more important as well.

Steve Scmoll had opened the season as the closer and did so well that he was promoted to Jacksonville. Jumbo Diaz was brought in to replace him and also was successful but blew out his elbow. So, at the end it was Dannemiller as the closer and his response was equally as fine. He wound up with seven saves in the late going as Vero compiled the best record in the Florida State League. He held opposing batters to a 183 mark in doing so.

" I love being in crucial siltations, " he notes. "When a closer comes in, the game is on the line. Your adrenalin gets going then. "

And then there's married live. "Cheree is a very important part of my success. She loves baseball and knows the game well. She's always there to support me and that means so much."

Beau was certainly there with support of his own when Hurricane Frances ripped Vero Beach and Indian River County in which it is located apart.

Cheree, you see, is a radio co-host on a local station. With power lines down thus shutting off television reception, portable radios became the single vital media by which thousands could find out what was happening regarding recovery issue such as where to obtain, water, food and ice.

First, the station had to be put back on the air so Beau was in on the effort to clear away the debris. Before they could go back on the air, the wiring to the transmitter tower had to be put in place. So, it was Beau who scaled 160 feet up its side to complete the task. "I was the best person to do it," he says simply.

Thus, Cheree, her cohort Hamp Elliott and others worked long hours keeping the area residents informed. Beau kept helping out. So much so, that the couple didn't have a real honeymoon until much later.

Then, another separation for Beau reported for winter ball in Venezuela. "A three-minute phone call cost a fortune, " he relates. "But we're stronger for it. "

And he reported this spring, revitalized with purpose. "I threw a 'pen and of 20 pitches, 18 were exactly where I wanted them to be. I think I'm throwing better than I ever did. "

The club has certainly noticed for they brought Beau across the camp for possible action in an L.A. game against the Mets on Mar. 12. "As the game went, they told me I'd probably pitch the next day," Beau relates. As matters unfolded, it went to the 11th inning when he was called in, a major leaguer for the day.

"I didn't have time to get nervous. I warmed up in a hurry. When I went in, I wasn't even sure who I was pitching to but just concentrated on making good pitches." He did that, knocking them off, 1,2, 3 to preserve a 5-5 tie..

Hardly the ending of the story. Now this 25-year-old, 6-0, 210-pound righthander is vying for a spot on the Jacksonville roster, a purposeful performer with talent who has found his way back.

He's a happy man these days. So are the Dodgers that they have him.