Beimel's Re-Working the Plan

VERO BEACH, Fla.- For most of Joe Beimel's life, it was the Pittsburgh Pirates. Had to be. After all, growing up in St. Marys, a small town located in the hills of Northwestern Pennsylvania, that was the team whose games he listened to on the radio, watched on TV and traveled the 60-odd miles south to see in person. And while he starred in both basketball and football in high school, baseball was always his game for he was a lefthander with skills beyond the ordinary.

What's more, after a year in a junior college in Maryland, he transferred to Duquesne University located in the city itself where he pitched so well that today he's in that school's Sports Hall of Fame.

To make things perfect in 1998 it was the Pirates that selected him in the amateur draft, the very first Duquesne player, the hometown team ever picked. Though it was down in the 18th round where the money won't put you in the company of Teresa Heinz Kerry, it was still Pittsburgh so he wasted little time signing.

Didn't take him long to make it up there, either for in 2001 Beimel (pronounced BY-mull) was on the mound at PNC Park. He just had to look around and think how his childhood fantasy had worked out.

The reality of it all started sinking in the next two years. They wanted him to be the lefthanded set-up man and it wasn't really taking. He pitched in a lot of games, showed a good low 90's fast ball and a nasty slider but his command just wasn't what it should be. So, after the 2003 season, he received his release from the team of his dreams. Ah, the world is so often not what we wish it to be.

Of course, by then, he had also learned that what he had entered was a business, not a fantasy league. But he still had those pitches so he was in demand and signed with the Twins, went back to the minors and worked his butt off. Made it up to Minnesota, too, if only for three games . Still, they let him go to free agency.

Didn't take him long to find another team- this time, Tampa Bay. Back to the minors, pitched well and up to the Devil Rays for seven games at the end of the season. Had a 3.27 ERA, there. Not bad but now he was 28 and the Rays went on a youth kick so he was eased into free agency again.

Hardly ready to pack it in, he knew the Dodgers were seeking lefty help so signed with L.A. He's in camp as one of the non-roster types , hoping he'll impress enough to get another chance at some big league time.

In the time granted on the mound, he's looked quite capable but it didn't prove to be enough - at least, for now. That ll means Las Vegas to work for a possible future call-up.

He still has the pitches, his command has improved and what's more, he has something that Dodger pitchers don't seem to specialize in- a pick-off move that baffles runners. Stray a bit too far from the bag and they're dead meat.

Who knows? Maybe someday he'll be back on the mound at PNC, only this time wearing "Los Angeles" on his uniform. The family and friends from home would be there watching. Hey, that would be just about as good as his original plan.

Maybe, even better. Take that, Pittsburgh!