Imagine you’re an 18-year-old kid getting ready to pitch in one of the biggest games of your high school career.
The week leading up to the big game, you spent your time practicing, preparing your game plan and meeting with a scouting director from Major League Baseball.
Once you finally took the hill, you glance to your right and notice that nearly the entire starting lineup of the opposition is standing in front of their dugout and trying to gauge your pitches. You look toward the catcher, and instead of seeing the same guy you’ve been firing fastballs to all year, you see him, plus eight or nine polo-glad scouts in the stands with one hand holding a notebook and the other a radar gun.
You can only imagine how that must feel.
But that’s the life of a prospective major league pitcher, and during the second round of the Class AA baseball playoffs, that situation was lived by Jefferson senior Chris Beck.
"At first it was intimidating," said Beck, who was first checked out by three scouts early this year. "When you’re 18, you just really try and think about pitching, but then you start to think about what you need to do and that can be distracting."
Beck learned to block out the distraction of the scout, and if he wanted to keep the scouts coming, he had to.
"There’s a reason they’re here and I have to show them why," Beck said.
The reasons are simple. A fastball that touches 95 mph, a solid curve, and a change up that clocks between 75-80 but looks just like a fastball when it’s released.
His stuff is downright nasty. That’s why the scouts were there.
Unfortunately for Beck, on that night he didn’t have his best stuff. He still struck out 11 and threw 67 of his 97 pitches for strikes, but he gave up 10 runs to a Blessed Trinity team that swept Jefferson out of the playoffs and ended Beck’s high school career.
But his career is far from over.
He’s slated to attend Georgia Southern in the fall to pitch for the Eagles, but his baseball fate may be decided on June 9 during the MLB draft when the analysis of those scouts that saw him pitch could turn him into a pro. He doesn’t know, and he really doesn’t care, when he’ll be drafted. He’s just glad that he’s in a position to make a choice.
"If I get drafted I would want something good enough to offset Georgia Southern," Beck said. "Options are always good."
Most high school athletes don’t have those options.
Some will move on and play a sport in college, but most will step on a campus or job site in the fall with their playing careers firmly in the rearview mirror.
When they check behind them, they’ll see the wins, the losses and everything else that makes playing high school athletics so great, but my advice is to not look it that mirror for too long.
It’s fine to glance back to see what was once there, but it’s more important to stare out the windshield and see what’s coming at you.
Sure, you may not have the bright lights and possible fame of a professional ball player like Beck might, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drive toward greatness.
Beck’s distractions of radar gun-wielding scouts will pale in comparison to the adversities his peers will face, but take a lesson from Beck and when faced with distractions, block them out, stare at the target and give it the best you’ve got.
Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.