When Evan Beal was chosen by the Kansas City Royals in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft in June, it was the culmination of years of hard work. The news came in the midst of a playoff run that saw the South County’s baseball team get to the state championship game for the first time in school history. Beal’s father, Frank, was wearing a baby-blue Royals hat as his son pitched the team to a win in the state semifinals just days after the draft.
But in the end, in spite of the thrill of being drafted and the fact that Kansas City offered Beal a package of a signing-bonus plus future college-tuition guarantee valued at $650,000, he chose to go to college. As a result, he’ll be packing his bags for the University of South Carolina in a couple of weeks.
“Everything was great about going pro,” Beal said. “But it wouldn’t be the same as it would going to college and being around all sorts of people who love the program. I feel like I’ll have another shot at playing pro ball. So I’m just going to go the college route and do my work and get better and enjoy the experience, and in three years I can come out.”
Beal didn’t specifically say the Stallions’ 5-3 loss to Great Bridge in the state championship game influenced his decision to give up the professional offer, but being a part of an established team with a loyal fan base was something he wanted to stick with for at least three more years until he’s draft-eligible again. Thousands of fans attend Gamecocks’ home games in Columbia while teams in the low minors don’t often draw that well.
Beal, who didn’t lose a game and picked up a couple of saves as the Stallions went 28-0 before the championship game loss, said he would have liked to end his high school career as a winner, but enjoyed the season regardless of losing the final game.
“It was really fun going out there every day and winning every game until the last one,” he said. “I take it as a learning experience. No matter what you’ve done, it doesn’t mean anything until you finish.”
Beal will be going to a program that knows all about finishing. South Carolina won its second-straight NCAA Division I baseball title in June with a sweep of Florida in the championship series on June 28. The Gamecocks went 55-14 and won back-to-back extra-inning games en route to the championship.
Recruiting coordinator Chad Holbrook and his colleagues were thrilled to get Beal’s mid-July phone call telling him that he would be coming to college after all.
“We expect him to contribute right from the moment he gets here,” Holbrook said. “We’re excited about how he’s going to help our baseball program – he projects very well. He’s long and lean and he’s got a great breaking ball, which is unique among high school players. He’s got things to continue to work on as all kids his age do, but he’ll fit right in.”
Beal, whose brother Jesse, also a South County grad, was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 14th round of the 2008 draft, said his brother encouraged him to follow his heart.
“After (South Carolina) won the second national championship, [Jesse] called me up and said ‘Don’t just go for the money,’” Beal said. “He said he’d love for me to go South Carolina, so that kind of support from someone who’s been through pro ball, it really helps.”
Frank Beal has been busily filling out paperwork for his son’s enrollment and car shopping. Evan will need a sturdy vehicle for his Aug. 13 trip to Columbia. “I’m tickled to death for him," Frank said. "I think it’s going to be cool watching him grow up a little bit and that’s going to be a good place to do it.”
Evan and Frank Beal said the negotiation process with the Royals was a little frustrating, and the family was “playing the dollar game” with the organization. In the end, it was the equivalent of fourth-round money that Beal turned down.
A Kansas City media representative said the organization would not comment on Beal’s decision.
Holbrook thinks Beal was leaning toward accepting the Royals’ offer more than once over the summer, which pushed the Gamecocks to increase their tuition offer and promise Beal a chance to pitch as a freshman.
“A lot of kids when, they look at college versus pro ball, if they go right into pro ball they’ve given up a lot,” Holbrook said. “When you go the college route, you’re not missing a thing.”
While Beal said he’s not thrilled about the prospects of sitting in a classroom for the next three years, he figures it’s a fair trade in order to play college baseball “for the best program in the nation.”
“I didn’t want to pass that up,” he said.