At times, Jon Beuder’s path to success looked like a boulevard of broken dreams.
So it was no surprise that Beuder stumbled into the big time with all the grace of a little boy falling out of a tree. He’s on his way to a professional baseball career.
“Every time something bad happened, I’d say, ‘Well, it’ll make for a good story,’ ” he said.
A chronological account of Beuder’s trek from Mira Costa High School to a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers is no simple task. But that odyssey, in itself, is the story of Jon Beuder. Nothing has come easily.
Beuder, who finished his senior year at Cal State Dominguez Hills as a first-team All-American last May, now plays for the Salt Lake City Trappers of the Class A Pioneer League--that little unaffiliated minor league team that set a national record for most consecutive victories (29) in baseball history.
They were self-proclaimed rejects who were not drafted by a major league club, laughing in the face of all baseball scouts who had snubbed them for one reason or another.
They caught the attention of baseball fans and had the national media eating off their fingertips. Beuder relished the moment.
“I’d walk into the locker room and there’d be a lot of reporters around,” Beuder recalled. “I’d get a big grin on my face while talking to them.”
The streak ended and life is now another treacherous minor-league bus ride for the Trappers. But the memory lingers. Especially for Beuder, who admits he was not only a reject but a reject among rejects.
After his successful senior season at Dominguez Hills in which he hit .346--13th in the nation among NCAA Division II teams--he eagerly waited by the phone to be drafted.
He had been drafted two years earlier by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 13th round after two years at El Camino College. Beuder turned down the Phillies’ meager offer and enrolled at UC Santa Barbara.
But Beuder was injured in the fall, then redshirted in the spring when he was declared academically ineligible.
Pessimistic about his future at Santa Barbara, he talked to Coach Andy Lopez at Dominguez Hills, who had coached him at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach. He decided to go home and play for Dominguez Hills.
Aside from outstanding individual accomplishments, Beuder also helped the Toros to the College World Series. He was the team’s leading hitter for two years. That’s why he was sure he’d get a call; he just wasn’t sure what round he’d go in.
One draft day went by, then another and another. Beuder swallowed, then nearly choked at the thought of not being of any interest to a professional team.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Beuder, who along with Lopez can’t figure out why he wasn’t drafted.
“I never really got a concrete answer,” said Lopez, who vigorously asked around the baseball community. “Anybody can take a stab at it.”
The only explanation is at 5-11 and 195 pounds Beuder was considered too small to play the outfield. Lopez said size becomes a factor for scouts because an athlete who is too small might lack the durability to play major league ball.
Yet, Dodger scout Ron King says Beuder is “not that small. He’s a well-put-together man. It makes you wonder sometimes” he said of the undrafted Beuder.
Beuder pondered his next step. Friends got on the phone calling around to see if anyone was interested. Then Lopez called Beuder with an offer--sort of.
Barry Moss, the Trappers’ hitting instructor, had seen the Toros play in the College World Series. Impressed with Beuder and three of his teammates, Moss called Lopez offering a tryout for the four at Pepperdine.
Beuder’s first thought?
“Who the heck are the Trappers?”
His second thought?
“I’ve never had to try out for anything in my life,” said Beuder, who aside from success in baseball had a successful high school and junior college career in football as a running back.
Glove in hand, Beuder took his bruised ego to Pepperdine for a two-day tryout for a spot along with 70 other hopefuls. Unlike most, he was asked to come back the next day.
Beuder was offered a spot on the Salt Lake roster but was still confused. College teammate Mike Aspray didn’t make the roster but was offered a contract with the Chicago Cubs. Beuder wasn’t thrilled about signing with an unaffiliated team but caught a plane to Salt Lake City.
Beuder beat out some strong competition and made himself a fixture in right field, with some time in center field also. But midway through the record win streak, Beuder pulled a hamstring. He sat out 10 games, going through therapy and grimacing on the bench while the Trappers neared baseball history. Then came Game 27 of The Streak.
Said Beuder: “I got healthy just in time for some excitement.”
Beuder’s first-inning grand slam brought the sold-out crowd to its feet and helped the Trappers tie the record, which was set by the Corsicana Oilers of the Texas League in 1902 and tied by the Baltimore Orioles of the International League in 1921.
Then the record was broken and the streak extended through 29 games before the Trappers lost. Beuder and his teammates signed a baseball that will be placed in the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
But the big moment came in Manager Jim Gilligan’s office soon after game 29. Gilligan told Beuder his contract had been purchased by the Dodgers. He’d finally been signed by a major league team.
“I just remember sitting there and thinking, ‘My God, that’s what all this work has been for.’ ”
Beuder will finish the season with the Trappers and is “98% sure” he’ll play winter ball in the Instructional League and report to spring training in March.
“I just took a liking to him,” King said. “His basic tools are there. I think he has a chance to be a pretty good player, plus the fact that he’s a very good athlete.
“He thinks he can play, too. He gives you that impression when he walks up to the plate that he’s going to get a base hit to pick up the runner.”
Beuder is batting .323 for the Trappers and getting the most out of his speed with 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts. He is no power hitter, but according to Gilligan he always gets his job done.
“He’s like a burglar,” said Gilligan. “He’ll do anything you tell him to do no matter what it is. I wish we had 25 Jon Beuders on this team.”