Billy Beckham will be one of the many.
One of the many meaning that he will be one that will be taking advantage of the extra year or years that have been granted to the college athletes due to the pandemic. Since the athletes were attending school online, but not playing their chosen sport, the academic payoff will be even greater.
In five to seven years, there will be athletes that are more educated than their predecessors. Case in point: Beckham, a Litchfield graduate, has four years of eligibility. He will leave Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey with an associates degree as he heads to Union University. He will use those extra years to not only get his bachelor’s degree in biology/physical therapy and then getting a master’s degree in business administration.
“I had multiple schools recruiting me and I fielded offers from as far away as Pennsylvania and California,” said Beckham. “I narrowed it down to three schools. I chose Union over Grandview University and Brescia University. I chose them because of what they had to offer. They told me that I needed to focus on three things: God, education and baseball. The location of the school (Jackson, TN) was right where I want to be and in the Gulf South Conference. Because of the conference, all of my games will be played in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. I love the conference, it is one of the top NCAA Division II Conferences in the nation. The competition will be very good. It was also one of the best looking campus I had seen. I knew almost immediately that this was going to be my new home.”
He was on the roster for two years at Lewis and Clark, but he had no stats in 2020 other than two walks. It was far different in 2021, when he played in 42 of the 47 games. In 131 trips to the dish, Beckham had 38 hits for a .290 batting average. Of his hits, five were doubles and five were homers.
“I was not known as a home run hitter, but I will never forget two homers that I hit,” explained Beckham. “I hit a walk-off home run and I tied a game with a grand slam. When COVID-19 shut us down, that was the worst news. Being at a junior college, you only get two years to prove yourself to move on to a four-year school. College baseball was a different animal than high school in that the game is much faster and situational hitting is a big deal and used much more in college. The shortened year this year was not to be taken for granted and I played as hard as I could, because you never know when it will be your last game. I went out there with the attitude that it could be my last game. I played hard and gave until I could not give any more.”
Beckham scored 29 runs, drove home 24 runs, walked 24 times and stole 11 bases. He finished with an on-base percentage of .423 and a slugging percentage of .443. He was second on the team in walks, stolen bases and runs scored. He was also third in hits and home runs.
The son of Bill and Cindy Beckham of Litchfield plans to continue his education beyond the MBA as he wants to earn a doctorate in physical therapy.
“It has always been my dream to play at a four-year school,” said Beckham. “As a younger player, I dreamed of playing, and making it to the college ranks is an accomplishment. Starting off at a junior college was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The education was much cheaper and I had more time to figure out what I wanted to do. It was a good way for you to see if you are actually a college level player. There are some great players at this level and many of these players will be at the NCAA Division I level or a very high Division II or Division III level. Having an older sister (Tessa Beckham) that played college softball helped me as she gave me something to shoot for and it showed me it was possible. Playing professionally is my goal to this day. Any type of professional baseball. I would love to play in the Frontier League or in the minors. I am never going to stop chasing that dream until I am done with baseball.”
Union posted a record of 15-21 this year. They were 13-20 in the Gulf South Conference. One year ago, they had an abbreviated schedule, finishing 8-13 overall and 3-6 in the Gulf South Conference. During the 2021 season, Union had five players that finished with a batting average of .300 or better. Of those five, three are listed as seniors or graduate students on the roster. The only pitcher with more than 20 innings of work and a winning record, also is a senior.
“Billy overcame an injury and put the work in to get better,” said Randy Martz, his coach at Lewis and Clark Community College and a former major league pitcher with both the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox. “I wish I had nine of him in the lineup. He really improved and became capable of hitting the ball to all fields. His speed helped his fielding immensely. He will be a success at the Division II level, because of his work ethic. He will overcome any obstacles that get in his way.”