Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Major League dreams

Belton High School Baseball has had a rich history of pitching that has been represented well in the 21st century.

Three more former Belton pitchers will be making the jump to professional baseball as University of Texas at Arlington pitcher John Beck, Baylor pitcher Dillon Newman and Temple College pitcher Tyler Vail have been drafted by Major League Baseball franchises.

Beck was drafted by the Colorado Rockies, Newman was drafted by the Houston Astros and Vail was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

Beck, a 6-2 junior for the Mavericks, was a 15th round pick of the Rockies. For his career at UTA, he is 7-10 with a 5.11 ERA. In 24 appearances and six starts in 2013, Beck was 1-6 with 2 saves and 5.11 ERA in 68.2 innings pitched, while striking out 38 and walking 22. He will be heading to Grand Junction, Colorado to start his career.

"I'm excited to start my career," said Beck. "I'll get to start my career in Grand Junction, so it will be a bit cooler than here."

Newman, the 6-2 pitcher who just completed his junior pitcher at Baylor University, was drafted in the 49th round in 2010 by the New York Mets. He opted to attend Baylor instead to gain an education and to pitch on the college level. Newman was chosen in the 16th round as the 467th overall pick by the Houston Astros. In three seasons with the Bears in 46 appearances and 14 starts, Newman compiled an 8-9 record with a 2.83 ERA in 149.2 innings with only 22 walks while striking out 113 and holding opponents to a .241 average. In his first season as a starter in 2013, the honorable mention All-Big 12 choice went 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA with five walks and 52 strikeouts in 77.1 innings while holding foes to a .225 average. His stellar career ERA of 2.83 ranks eighth all-time at Baylor and 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks first. It is unknown yet where he will start his professional career, but he will know something in the near future.

"The Astros being a local team and me being a local guy, I couldn't ask for anything else," said Newman.

Vail, completing his sophomore season at Temple College, was drafted in 20th round and 613th overall by the Braves. Vail, in two years pitching for Craig McMurtry's Leopards, was 11-6 with a 2.80 ERA, striking out 129 and walking 37 in 148 innings pitched. He had a stellar 2013 season, going 9-1 with two shutouts, a 1.97 ERA, struck out 81 batters while walking 15. He got his plane ticket and will be in Orlando today to start his major league career in Atlanta's instructional league.

"Atlanta is awesome. I am all ready to chop," said Vail, making the well-known Braves' tomahawk chop. "Orlando will be fun. I've never been to Florida before, so I'll get to check it out."

The three of them do not know roles in which they will pitch yet for their respective organizations, though the Rockies have talked to Beck about being a reliever. Newman summed up the mentality of a starting pitcher as opposed to a relief pitcher.

"As a starter you have a clean slate," explained Newman, with Vail and Beck nodding their heads in agreement. "As a reliever, you get to clean up the others messes."

All three of the Belton alumnus value their experiences in Belton red-and-white and treasured their time in Central Texas.

"I miss pitching with these guys," said Newman, of Vail and Beck. "We had a lot of fun here in Belton and learned a great deal from the coaches here."

"The best memory is the dog-pile after we beat A&M Consolidated," said Vail. "I almost died underneath there, but it was worth it. To have three draft picks from the same team in the same draft class is unbelievable."

They also know that being so far away from home, the lifestyles will be different in cities that are bigger than Belton. With Beck pitching in Arlington and spending time in the Cape Cod League and Newman spending time in Waco, the adjustment won't be hard.

"Spending time in the Cape League, living 2,000 miles away you learn to take care of yourself," said Beck. "There are things you learn and you mature. I won't be hard."

"I've been in Wyoming and had to make my way home on a Greyhound bus," said Vail. "Then I went to Louisiana. I've been on my own, so it won't be that hard."

"Being in Kansas my freshman year, then in Santa Barbara last year, I was gone a lot," said Newman. "But I am used to it and it's won't be difficult."

The greatest words of wisdom came from Newman to sum up leaving the collegiate ranks and heading out to become a pro ball player.

"I'll take a lot of wisdom and advice from coaches," said Newman. "From this point forward, I'm my own best coach."