Catching Up With RHP Clark Beeker
Seth Stohs (SS): It’s been a few weeks now since the season ended. Have you had a chance to reflect on your season? Did you accomplish goals you may have set before the season?
Clark Beeker (CB): Looking back on my first full season in professional baseball, I was pleased with the way it went. Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers were both great places to play and having both teams in the playoffs was indicative of the talent of the players and coaching staffs. Going into the season, it wasn’t a definite that I would be one of the starters in the Cedar Rapids’ rotation so making that happen was a nice first step. As the season goes on, you make adjustments based on what in your arsenal is successful, how the hitters respond to certain pitches/sequences, and the overall daily life of being a minor league baseball player. Being open to making adjustments and learning along the way definitely helped my progression up until the culmination of the season.
SS: How did you hold up, physically or emotionally, through your first full season of pro ball?
CB: I felt that my body held up pretty well – I really didn’t experience any fatigue until the last couple of weeks of the season. Half the battle for playing in your first full season is being able to stay off the DL and handle the rigors of bus rides and weeks without an off day. Taking care of my body, eating right (most of the time), and getting plenty of sleep were keys for me that I focused on throughout the season.
SS: You made the Twins Daily Minor League All-Star team as the right-handed starting pitcher. As you look at your stat line, what are you most excited about?
CB: I see that the checks I wrote to the voters cleared – so that was a smooth transaction. Being recognized was definitely an honor considering how many strong performances there were throughout the entire organization. My biggest takeaway from the season, numbers wise, was the amount of innings I was able to throw. By averaging roughly 6.25 innings per start, I was able to keep hitters off the bases and pitch deep into games. Although pitching late into games isn’t always indicative of success, you’re not going to keep pitching into the 7th, 8th, 9th innings if you’re not pitching well and giving your team a chance to win. I typically wasn’t pleased with my outing unless I went seven innings or more.
SS: To what do you attribute your success throughout the 2017 season at Cedar Rapids?
CB: I think the biggest thing for me was having a plan for how I wanted to attack each hitter, every single start. It may not have been the right plan, but based on scouting reports (which video intern Sam Berk did a great job of analyzing and compiling), my pitches, and various sequences, I had a purpose with every pitch. I got away from this in Fort Myers and coupled with better/more advanced hitters, I didn’t pitch as well as I would have liked.
SS: When things were going really well, such as during your 30+ inning scoreless streak, what was working well for you?
CB: Being able to pitch at home in Cedar Rapids for all 4 games…haha. But all in all, I made a conscious effort to start throwing my changeup more from the first inning on. The first three months of the season, I wouldn’t start incorporating the changeup until the second time through the lineup. I started throwing it more, especially in disadvantage counts (1-0, 2-1) and was able to find some success. The combination of the changeup, limiting walks, some great plays by the defense, and obviously a little bit of luck along the way enabled me to pitch effectively.
SS: What was the atmosphere like in Cedar Rapids as the team earned a playoff berth and then did well in the playoffs?
CB: To preface this, Cedar Rapids has a phenomenal fan base. The support we had night in and night out definitely gave our team an advantage, especially as the season reached the second half of a long season. In one of our home playoff games, we had about 1800 fans and they were as loud and into the game as any of the 3000-4000 attendances we had throughout the season.
SS: Have you been able to get away from baseball so far this offseason with any fun activities? Anything exciting for the rest of the offseason?
CB: I haven’t done anything too exciting – it was nice to relax at home for the first few weeks. I have a couple weekend trips planned to visit some former teammates and friends so it will be nice to catch up with friends that you haven’t seen since the previous offseason.
SS: When do you start your workouts in preparation for 2017? When do you, as a starting pitcher, pick up a ball and start throwing?
CB: I’ve begun the strength training phase after I let my body recover for almost a month. I’ve tried to focus on staying flexible and getting stronger in all aspects of my body to ensure that I’m ready for spring training. I’ll start throwing in December and gradually work my way back to a long toss phase that will prepare me for bullpens in February. I hate feeling rushed, so I’ll give myself a little extra time to slowly build up my arm strength.
SS: Have you had a chance to catch up with your old teammates and coaches at Davidson to touch base on their Regional and Super Regional experience in June?
CB: I’ve been able to catch up with them a decent amount this offseason – I’m helping out in the athletic fundraising office at Davidson to support the baseball program’s fundraising efforts. Their run was so unlikely in the grand scheme of things, but so deserving for how hard the players work and what Coach Cooke has endured to reach this point. The best thing about looking back at the Super Regional run is seeing the outpouring of support from current players, former teammates, and the community for something that was a first for the Davidson baseball program.
SS: What area of your game do you feel you took the furthest strides with in 2017?
CB: I thought that my ability to pitch inside with the fastball was the biggest thing for me during the season. We would go entire games where the catcher (usually my roommate Ben Rortvedt) would exclusively call inside fastballs and abandon the fastball away. Being able to pitch inside prevented hitters from extending their hands on pitches over the plate and set up my offspeed pitches to be more effective.
SS: What are the areas of your game that you would like to spend time this offseason working to improve?
CB: For me, just to improve on my full body strength and arm strength which would hopefully translate to an uptick in velocity. As a pitcher, I definitely don’t scare hitters when they see my fastball velocity on the scouting report, so being able to find a comfort zone where I’m pitching at my maximum velocity every pitch is something I am working to improve.
SS: Talk about Tommy Watkins and the coaching staff in Cedar Rapids and how they helped you individually and helped the team succeed.
CB: Tommy (Watkins), JP (Martinez), and Dink (Brian Dinkelman) were all great to be around everyday, which is tough to do when you have a 140-game season crammed into five months. Tommy did a great job of keep things loose and challenging us to bring great energy each day at the ballpark. As a pitching coach, JP was able to find an approach that worked best for each guy and helped me create a plan for how I could have success each start. He constantly worked with me to fine tune my delivery and challenged me to not become complacent as the season moved along.
SS: What was it like seeing former big leaguers like LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunters or other roving instructors come through Cedar Rapids. Any good conversations with any of them?.
CB: It was great to hear from not only former big leaguers, but guys who have played longer than most baseball players ever envision. LaTroy talked about focusing on the details and not overlooking the importance of holding runners on base, fielding your position, etc. Even when Sam Perlozzo was around, I would try to pick up bits of information that the hitter deems important – baseball is more mental than a lot of people realize.
SS: Rank the top 3-5 TV shows you’ve binge watched…
CB: Prison Break, Seinfeld, Breaking Bad, Entourage, The Office (in that order)
A big Thank You to Clark Beeker for taking the time to respond to our questions. Please feel free to ask questions and comment below.