When the calendar turns to April, every baseball fan gleams with excitement. The snow melts, the sun comes out, the grass is green, and spring is in the air. Baseball season is here. As spring rolls in, so do the hopes and dreams that this can finally be their teams’ year. When every young player suits up in the spring, they dream of one day being able to take the field at a Major League stadium on Opening Day. New Britain Bees pitcher Joe Beimel has seen that dream has become a reality. For Beimel, playing on MLB Opening Day was a dream that was fueled by his love for the game.
“As a kid at about 4 or 5 years old I remember playing tee ball and just telling my parents I was going to play baseball when I grew up, and obviously a lot of kids do that, but when you're 17 or 18 and you’re still saying the same thing, people either believe you or they don’t. For me I had a good support system with my parents and stuff like that, and my dad was always a big baseball fan so he kind of instilled that in me and I just always had a love for the game."
After being drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Armature Draft, Beimel has gone on to pitch for 13 seasons in the Majors. In addition to the Pirates, Beimel has pitched for the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Colorado Rockies, and the Seattle Mariners.When he suited up for his first Opening Day in the Majors, he took the opportunity to soak up everything that he could. At the young age of 23, Beimel had an impressive showing during spring training and made the opening day roster for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001.
“I remember thinking how surreal it was because I had never pitched above Double-A ball before and completely skipped Triple-A”, Beimel said.“I just remember calling my parents and being super excited to share the news. Then, to treat myself, I went to Taco Bell, which was like a gourmet meal for me back then”.
While Beimel did not pitch that day, the experience was something that he will never forget.
“Because I knew I wasn’t pitching that day, I was able to just sit back and take it all in and enjoy everything about it”, he said. “Everyone lining up on the field, all the festivities going on, and just the size of the crowd. It was PNC’s Park first year, so the crowd was just amazing. I think they had close to 40,000 people there.”
Born in Kersey, Pennsylvania, Beimel grew up only 113 miles away from PNC park, the home of the Pirates.
“I grew up a Pirate fan so to get drafted by them was pretty awesome,” he added. “Then being able to come up with them and make the big league team was a dream come true.”
On April 1st, 2002, Beimel once again suited up on opening day for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Little did he know, he was about to make his first ever opening day appearance. In the 7th inning, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon made a call to the bullpen, summoning the 24 year old Beimel. Running onto the field from the bullpen that day is an experience Beimel will never forget.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous”, Beimel recalled. "It’s probably my favorite memory pitching. I came running out of the bullpen at Shea Stadium. I believe there were like 66,000 people there. It was insane. I came in to face Mo Vaughn in a big situation and the crowd was going crazy. I ended up coming in and striking him out on three pitches and I just remember how silent the crowd went. It made me feel pretty awesome because I was able to come through in a big situation and the fact that I was solely responsible for all those people not being happy was pretty cool.”
This year as Opening Day rolls around, Beimel looks forward to coming out of the bullpen and continuing his success for a 20th season. For Beimel, not only does Opening Day mean the start of a new season, but also the chance to be able to play the game that he loves for another year.
“It’s a chance for a fresh start”, Beimel said.“It’s just pretty awesome to spend another year playing ball. I’m just excited to be able to still be playing and have a chance to put the uniform on and be successful”.
Joe Beimel and the New Britain Bees open the season against the York Revolution on April 21st, 2017 at New Britain Stadium. #OpeningNightInNB is presented by Advanced Physical Therapy, and features a magnet schedule giveaway for the first 1,000 fans, along with a fantastic postgame fireworks display! Tickets, including season tickets, mini-plan, and special discounted group rates, are available by calling (860) 826-BEES, visiting the New Britain Stadium Box Office, or by checking our nbbees.com