Prairie Grove Cheers on Jalen Beeks

FOR­MER RA­ZOR­BACK DE­BUTS ON MLB STAGE

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Humphrey

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.”

JOHN MIN­CHILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

PHO­TOS BY MATTHEW THOMAS/BOS­TON RED SOX

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.

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