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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Beckham’s long ride brings him to The Show

Published:   |   Updated: September 19, 2013 at 06:29 AM

ST. PETERSBURG — He said he found out late Tuesday night in Allentown, Pa., after his team, the Durham Bulls, International League champions, lost the Triple-A national title game to the Omaha Storm Chasers.

The Show finally called. The Rays called up Tim Beckham.

After six seasons in the minor leagues, all those ups and downs since that day he was plucked from a Georgia high school and picked first overall in the 2008 draft, Beckham was finally going to the major leagues. It was no small thing.

His father, Jimmy, was at the game in Allentown.

“Go and get it,” Jimmy told his son.

“It’s been a long ride, a lot of hard work ... and I’m here,” Tim Beckham said.

He stood in the Rays clubhouse at Tropicana Field a few hours before another playoff push-come-to-shove against Texas. Beckham came to Tropicana Field straight from the airport.

“Right off a flight,” Beckham said,

It has been a long ride — all those seasons of not quite being ready, not even close to being ready, from Can’t Miss to Swing and Miss. And there was that 50-game suspension in 2012 for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for marijuana use.

A lot of learning moments: 621 minor-league games, 2,709 plate appearances.

A long ride.

“That’s something I’m not going to forget,” Beckham said.

He hit .276 with four home runs, 51 RBIs and 17 stolen bases for Durham this season, and he played a solid shortstop.

Now he’s here.

True, it’s just 12 games, from here to the end of the regular season, and Beckham won’t be used that much, maybe mop-up defense in games already won or already lost, if there are any.

“I don’t necessarily see him in high-leverage moments, but you never know around here,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Maddon also said, “He’s earned the right to be here.”

In the Rays clubhouse, Delmon Young strolled past Beckham.

“Is that him?” Young said, kidding. “I thought he would be taller.”

And so the Rays have three No. 1 draft picks in the house — Young, who went first in 2003, and David Price, chosen first overall in 2007, the year before Beckham.

There is no one route to the majors. Every journey is different.

“Some guys never make it, some guys turn into Joe Mauer,” Young said. “It’s wherever you’re destined to be. You see some guys get right here, some get there in five years.”

Young was in the majors inside of three seasons. By the end of Price’s first professional season, he was closing out the ALCS against the Red Sox. Wil Myers, 22, has a been rookie sensation for the Rays. Rookie pitcher Chris Archer has been a standout, too.

Tim Beckham took so long, he plummeted down the list of top Rays prospects. He took so long, people wondered if the Rays would have been better if they’d passed on Beckham and gone with the kid taken fifth that same draft: Buster Posey.

But, get this: Beckham is still only 23.

“This is my dream,” he said. “This is still a dream come true, to play in the major leagues. It would have been great if it was a two- or three-year process. You’ve got to play the cards how they’re dealt.

“Sometimes it takes a guy longer than the next guy, you can’t look at other guys’ success and measure it up against yours.”

You probably won’t see him much these last dozen games. Then again, it’s the Rays. You never know. See Johnson, Dan.

Rays infielder Sean Rodriguez sat at his locker and looked a few stalls down, at Beckham.

“You excited?” Rodriguez asked.

Beckham just smiled.

He’s here.

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