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Big week for Beckham: SEC Player of the Year could be top 10 pick

POSTED: June 15, 2008 5:01 a.m.

ATHENS — Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham never succumbed to the temptations that bring down so many rich college kids.

Keg parties that sloshed on past midnight didn’t interest Beckham. He never had reason to reach for his ATM card at 3 a.m. and further risk putting himself in harm’s way.

Instead, Beckham focused on helping Georgia (39-22-1) advance to an NCAA Super Regional that begins Friday against North Carolina State (41-20).

The winner of the best-of-three series will play in the College World Series next week at Omaha, Neb.

Beckham’s hard work on the field and in the classroom earned him dual honors as the Southeastern Conference player of the year and scholar-athlete of the year in baseball.

Bulldogs coach David Perno was hardly surprised this week when Beckham was named as one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which Major League Baseball gives annually to the top college player.

"He’s so unique in that blend of making himself a better person and player every day," Perno said Wednesday. "Gordon is a special kid. To see him mature and grow in his three years at Georgia has been a great privilege for me."

Beckham also stands to realize a financial windfall in the major league draft today.

Projected recently as the No. 8 overall pick by Baseball America, Beckham seems stable enough to avoid pitfalls that big contracts sometimes create for a 21-year-old.

That’s because Beckham, an Atlanta native and a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Schools, is the son of J. Gordon Beckham, CEO of a local company that advises life insurance and financial services industries.

"I’m not underprivileged by any means," the younger Beckham said. "But I feel like I’ve always shown a work ethic that allows me to take nothing for granted."

A real estate management major, Beckham spent his summers in the amateur Cape Cod League to keep his baseball skills sharp. He learned to take the same hitting approach used by Boston Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez, to "see the ball and keep everything plain and simple."

Following Georgia’s first-round regional victory against Georgia Tech this week, Beckham padded his season numbers that already ranked among the nation’s best in batting average (.397), homers (24), RBIs (65), runs scored (85) and fielding percentage (.961) in 279 chances.

"This will be my last time to compete at Foley Field in front of our home fans," Beckham said. "Obviously, I want to go out with two wins that will take us on to Omaha. Winning a national championship would mean more than anything."

Perno, who is trying to lead the Bulldogs into the College World Series for the third time in the last five years, never hesitates to praise his players, but he wanted to avoid the topic of Beckham’s durability.

With Beckham at shortstop and Ryan Peisel at third base, Perno has enjoyed the luxury of having one side of his infield starting every game (183) since the start of 2006. Peisel is Georgia’s leadoff hitter, followed by right fielder Matt Olson, Beckham and first baseman Rich Poythress.

"I need some wood to knock on," Perno said. "No doubt that our team has really been blessed with Gordon and Ryan’s leadership. You couldn’t ask for two better role models for our entire team."

Beckham plans to watch the draft, which begins at 2 p.m., with his family and enjoy a moment that will come only once in his life.

"If you’d told me a couple of months ago that I’d be a top 10 pick, I would’ve said that you’re crazy," he said. "If you’d told me a week ago that I’d be a top 10 pick, I would’ve said you’re crazy still."



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