March 27, 2013

Kevin Thomas: Wondering, waiting, 26 years – will I get the call?

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Relaxed, watching a little morning television in bed, Arnie Beyeler heard his cell phone ring. He looked over at the Caller ID: John Farrell.

Beyeler thought to himself: "I don't know if I want to pick this up or not."

It was two days before Thanksgiving. Beyeler had been told to expect a call. Soon.

But what news would the call deliver? An offer Beyeler longed for? Or another disappointment.

Beyeler, 49, has always been a baseball man, the game running through his blood. Anyone who met Beyeler in Portland, where he managed the Portland Sea Dogs from 2007-2010, knew that.

Beyeler played college ball at Wichita State and then signed with the Tigers in 1986. An infielder, Beyeler's goal was obvious.

"I tried to make the big leagues," he said.

Beyeler slowly worked his way up and peaked in Triple-A in 1991. He was going no further as a player, so he moved on, becoming a scout and then a minor league hitting coach in the Yankees organization. Beyeler's first managing job came with the Red Sox, directing short-season Lowell for two years (2000-01) and low Class A Greenville (2002). Ironically when the new Red Sox ownership group, led by John Henry, cleaned house, Beyeler was one of the coaches to go.

He joined the Rangers organization. In 2004, Beyeler interviewed for a major league coaching job with the Mets. He did not get it.

The Red Sox re-hired Beyeler to manage the Sea Dogs in 2007. He stayed in Portland a franchise-record four years. Beyeler was promoted to Triple-A in 2010 and managed Pawtucket for two seasons, the 2012 team winning the International League title.

After 26 years as a player, scout, coach and manager, Beyeler still had not tasted the major leagues. He looked destined to be a minor league lifer and was starting to accept it.

"You know, I thought, 'What if I never get to the big leagues?' I was OK," Beyeler said. "I got a pretty good gig here. It's a lot of fun.

"When you quit worrying about it, all you worry about is the players -- because it's all about the players. So I quit worrying about it. Whatever happens will happen."

Then Boston manager Bobby Valentine was fired after the disastrous 2012 season. Eventually all the coaches were also gone.

John Farrell replaced Valentine and began assembling his staff. Beyeler got an invitation to Boston, to talk about the vacant first-base coaching job.

"I went up for the interview on a Wednesday (Nov. 14). Then Ben (Cherington, Red Sox general manager) called me during the weekend," Beyeler said. He tried to stay on an even keel, but Beyeler really wanted the job.

"Then came Farrell's phone call on that Tuesday before Thanksgiving. He asked me a few more questions," Beyeler recalled, "and then all of a sudden he goes, 'Are you ready for this?' I said, 'Yeah, what have you got?'

"He said, 'Well, I want you on my staff.' I didn't know what to say."

Beyeler froze. The call had come. His mind raced.

"Everything in 26 years, since I started doing this, flashed through my mind -- the coaches, the people, family, the players, everybody who had a hand in what I do. Wow. I was going to get a chance to be in the big leagues."

When Farrell was pitching coach for the Red Sox from 2007-10, he had some interaction with Beyeler. That knowledge, plus a range of recommendations, convinced Farrell.

"He's someone who has worked hard, had success, and earned the right and earned the promotion to the big-league level," Farrell said.

This spring training, Beyeler looked the same as he did those many years at Hadlock Field. During workouts, he's a man in motion, fungo bat in hand. He works with groups and individuals, many of the players he's already managed in the minors. But now he is in the bigs.

"This is pretty cool," Beyeler said, less than a week away from the Red Sox opener Monday against the Yankees.

"I still don't feel like it has really hit me yet. I'm sure opening day at Yankee Stadium, when I step out there on the field, it will be, 'Wow.' "

The work for this began 26 years ago. Then came the call Nov. 20, when Beyeler wondered if he should answer his phone.

"I'm glad I did," he said.

 

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at kthomas@pressherald.com

Twitter: ClearTheBases

 

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