Tyler Beede failed to make the cut a couple years ago.
So when the Vanderbilt right-hander toed the rubber earlier this week for Team USA, he tried to soak in the significance.
“It was a blast to be out there,” Beede said earlier in the week while bussing through North Carolina. “You couldn’t really put it into words. It was just one of those moments where you don’t realize how special it is in the moment but once you look back at it is pretty surreal. You think it is just another baseball game but realistically it is playing for your country and playing with a group of guys who are giving their all.
“There are people who come to watch you play because you have that USA across your chest. It is pretty special.”
Beede, who just finished his sophomore season, is one of 24 players from across the country playing for the collegiate national team. Since last Friday, those players have been touring Virginia and North Carolina and playing summer collegiate teams in preparation for upcoming international competition.
Team USA leaves July 3 for Japan, where it will play six games, including five against the Japanese Collegiate All-Stars. When it returns in mid-July, it will have six games against Cuba from July 18-23 in various cities, including, Des Moines, Iowa, Omaha, Neb., and Cary and Durham, N.C.
Beede, a native of Auburn, Mass., who has been out of the country just once when he went to Canada in high school, tried out for the USA Baseball 18-and-under team two years ago. He didn’t make the final roster.
This year he was one of a handful of players guaranteed a spot on a roster that will be trimmed from 32 to 24.
Vanderbilt has been intertwined with USA Baseball since 1997. Coach Tim Corbin has served as an assistant and head coach for collegiate national teams. Beede is the 12th Commodore to play for Team USA. He follows in the footsteps of David Price, Mike Minor and Pedro Alvarez. Right-hander Sonny Gray last represented Vanderbilt in 2010.
“It was just one of those things you think about,” Beede said. “It was definitely a dream of mine when I was younger. When you go through your freshman and sophomore year of college, you’re not really making it a goal but it is definitely something you want to accomplish while you’re playing the game of baseball.”
Beede took the mound on Sunday and pitched four innings of one-run, one-hit ball against the Morehead City (N.C.) Marlins. He had four strikeouts and allowed just two walks to notch his first win for Team USA (4-0).
It was his first outing since his record-breaking sophomore season ended more than two weeks ago. His 14 wins tied for the most wins in the nation and set the single-season record. He posted a 2.32 ERA, had 103 strikeouts and went 13-0 in his first 13 starts. He was a consensus All-American and finalist for two national player of the year awards.
But he said overthinking led to a late season fade. He went 1-1 with two no decisions in his last four starts. He picked an inopportune time for his shortest outing and first loss of the year, 2 2/3 innings in a season-ending 2-1 loss in a Super Regional to Louisville on June 9.
“I think the mental sides of things really took over my body,” Beede said. “When you have negative thoughts flowing through your body, your body becomes paralyzed to that. Those negative thoughts really take over and they become visible with your actions. That’s what happened there a little bit at the end of the season. I really wasn’t trusting any of my stuff, any of my preparation. I really got outside of my routine and was changing things that didn’t need to be changed.
“That’s just motivation. That will fuel me to get better. I'll take away most of the negatives and go work on them.”
After pitching into the sixth inning or beyond in 12 straight games, the 20-year-old failed to make it through five frames in three of his last four starts. Walks became an issue — he finished with a team-high 63 and offered up 19 freebies in his last five games.
His two appearances in the postseason were shaky and short. He walked five and allowed four runs in four-plus innings against Illinois. He walked three and gave up two runs on five hits in the last game against Louisville. He threw just 59 pitches and left with two outs and the bases loaded in the third inning and the Commodores trailing 2-0.
While Beede says he isn’t afraid to pitch on a big stage — the College World Series was a couple wins away — he admitted the magnitude of the situation seeped into his head.
“That is what killed me the most,” Beede said. “I really pride myself on going out there and competing hard for whatever team I play for or Team USA. It is going out there and competing the best I can and giving it all I have. I remember talking to coach [Corbin] at the end of the season that I feel worse about leaving the mound, kind of regretting not giving my all and letting those seniors down and juniors down who left [after getting drafted]. That is what hurt me the most was really going around after the game and hugging those guys and shedding tears with those guys.
“I was most disappointed about myself, just that I didn’t give it my all. I was trying. I wasn’t just trying to do that. Just some things came to play in my mind and couldn’t give it my best.”
He will be the Commodores' most experienced returning starter after the loss of left-handed ace Kevin Ziomek, drafted in the second round by the Detroit Tigers. Thus he will lead a pitching staff that compiled a 2.76 ERA and returns everyone except Ziomek.
Beede’s junior season carries heavy implications. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder could be a top pick in the draft if he replicates this past spring’s success. The only first-rounder drafted in 2011 not to sign says he’s not dwelling on the future — or thinking about the past.
At the moment, he is trying to stay in the present and keep his mind clear.
“I think I overthink a lot of things,” he said. “I try to be too fine with things. I really need to simplify things, throw the ball over the plate and trust my stuff. I have simplified that a little bit my last outing and I’ll continue to do that. My main focus is hammering down on my mechanics and being the best teammate I can be for these guys and when I go back to Vanderbilt.”