Prairie Grove Cheers on Jalen Beeks
FORMER RAZORBACK DEBUTS ON MLB STAGE
PRAIRIE GROVE — Win, lose or “no decision,” Prairie Grove cheered on 2011 PGHS graduate Jalen Beeks in his Major League Baseball debut Thursday pitching for the Boston Red Sox.
Beeks (0-1) was charged with a loss against the Detroit Tigers, who jumped the former Razorback ace for 5 runs in the first inning on the way to handing the Red Sox a 7-2 loss at Fenway Park.
If the beginning was small, nobody in Prairie Grove despises the experience. Throughout the community an awareness of the significance manifests in a show of support for a hometown hero pursuing his childhood dream of playing Major League Baseball.
Josh Waggle watched the game on ESPN appreciating the community recognition on a national stage.
“It was really neat to hear the commentators early on talk about Prairie Grove, talk about the University of Arkansas, the players that come out of the state, and being a Prairie Grove alum we were just so proud, really excited to see all the Facebook posts from his family and the people that support him,” Waggle said. “It was a big moment for the community. We had a really good time, we all stood around and paid attention to every pitch.”
For Waggle the event brought up more fantasy than memories creating a big sense of pride and made people real happy for Beeks.
“Just watching him live his dream and seeing how all of us think about potentially doing that one day and watching someone actually make it happen for Prairie Grove,” was a thrill for Waggle.
Nathan Ogden, who graduated from Prairie Grove in 1997 and operates Pick It Construction, was among a handful of local fans present when Beeks took the mound after being called up from Boston’s Triple A affiliate Pawtucket.
“I’ve laid in bed at night thinking if he goes, I’m going to go to his first game,” Ogden said during a Monday telephone interview with the Enterprise-Leader.
Ogden, a self-described sports fanatic, attended Game four of the NBA finals on Wednesday, June 6, as the Golden State Warriors completed a series sweep to win the 2018 championship at Cleveland. Accompanying Ogden were his friends, Clint Baker, of Springdale; and Lyndy Lindsey, of Fayetteville. The trio talked about going a little farther east to watch Beeks’ debut, then made a spontaneous decision to just do it.
“We were in Cleveland the night
before at the NBA finals, and it’s only a two-hour flight from Cleveland,” Ogden said, nudging his companions, “Hey, let’s go to see the kid from Prairie Grove pitch.”
His companions agreed and once they cleared things with their pilot they were off to Boston. Ogden texted Jalen’s dad and the trio gathered with the Beeks family at the ballpark. They were ushered around by Red Sox staff.
“They even got us a tour of the ballpark, that was super cool,” Ogden said.
The trio purchased tickets from a scalper and found themselves seated in the fourth or fifth row. When Beeks struck out the first batter he faced, Ogden stood up and hooped and hollered.
“This lady behind me said, ‘you’re awful excited over a strike-out,’” Ogden said as he quickly explained, “He’s from my hometown of Prairie Grove, Ark.”
Farmington baseball coach Jay Harper, who grew up and graduated from Prairie Grove, said major league pitching is difficult.
“It’s hard to pitch in the major league no matter what team you face, no matter who you face,” Harper said. “To face the first batter and get a strike-out, I know that was a thrill for him. He did have a rough outing on Thursday night, but he’s going to bounce back.”
After giving up 5 runs in the first inning Beeks did bounce back, allowing only a single run for the next three innings.
“He calmed down, he kept his composure, he finished strong,” Ogden said. “He struck out future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera. That’s pretty big stuff.”
Prairie Grove athletic director Joey Sorters was among scores of fans watching Beeks in his hometown.
“I thought he handled the situation as well as could be expected,” Sorters said. “That was a huge stage being a national TV game at Fenway park, making your Major League Baseball debut. I was very proud of him.”
In Ogden’s mind, Beeks has become “officially the greatest athlete to ever call himself a Prairie Grove Tiger.”
This is a 2018 photo of Jalen Beeks of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. This image reflects the 2018 active roster as of Feb. 20, 2018, when this image was taken. See more photos of Beeks on 4B and 8B.
Former Prairie Grove and Arkansas pitcher turned professional Boston Red Sox pitcher Jalen Beeks warms up in the outfield before his first start as a member of the Red Sox before the Boston Red Sox face the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on June 7.
Major League debut for former Razorback. Boston Red Sox pitcher Beeks delivers a pitch in his first start with the Red Sox as the Boston Red Sox face the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on June 7.
Beeks delivers a pitch in his first start with the Red Sox as the Boston Red Sox face the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts on June 7.