After four seasons in the independent leagues, C.J. Beatty was signed by the Chicago White Sox and assigned to Winston-Salem.
BY BRANT WILKERSONNEW
About 20 minutes after the Winston-Salem Dash wrapped up a victory Thursday night, nearly every player had retreated to the clubhouse to prepare for a long overnight bus ride to Wilmington, Del.
C.J. Beatty was the exception.
A former star at Glenn High School and N.C. A&T, Beatty stayed long after security guards began clearing the stadium — to sign autographs, shake hands and pose for photos, anything he could do to bask in the moment.
Beatty, a 25-year old outfielder, signed with the Chicago White Sox on Monday and was assigned to Winston-Salem. That ended his run of nearly four seasons playing in independent leagues and gave him another chance to make it in affiliated baseball.
Beatty spent two years with the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization after being drafted in the 26th round in 2009. He was released after hitting .257 in 2010 in stints with Quad Cities (Iowa) and Palm Beach (Fla.), the Cardinals’ advanced-Class A affiliate.
Although Beatty was having a solid summer with the Frontier League’s Washington (Pa..) Wild Things — a .305 batting average, 18 home runs and 66 RBIs — he had resigned himself to the fact that a call from a major-league organization probably wouldn’t be coming this season.
That left him with a decision about his future in baseball looming.
“Getting up there in age in terms of getting picked up again, I was closing in on that number, and the light at the end of the tunnel started getting smaller and smaller,” Beatty said. “I was just focused on winning an independent championship, and I wasn’t looking forward to getting picked up, and I was just going to play my game.
“It was a great opportunity, but to say I was coming home to Winston-Salem? Oh man, that was good.”
Early in the season, Beatty said that the stress of trying to get back into affiliated ball was weighing so heavily on him that his game suffered — his batting average dipped to .240 before he changed his approach.
Instead of worrying about whether scouts were watching, he decided to focus on being a better teammate and competing every day.
“I wasn’t chasing stats anymore, I said, ‘You know what, I’m just about to have fun,’ because when you’re chasing stats every single time, you lose your love of the game,” Beatty said.
The call from the White Sox came Monday, an off day for the Wild Things. Beatty was in the shower when Manager Bob Bozzuto poked his head in and told Beatty he might want to come by his office. When Bozzuto told him that he had been offered a contract, Beatty said he didn’t believe it.
“At first, I asked him, ‘Is this a joke?’ I thought it was a joke,” Beatty said. “He looked at me with a serious face and said, ‘This isn’t a joke, this is real.’”
Beatty hopped in his car and made the five-hour drive south Monday afternoon. As word spread, he said, he heard from old friends who promised to stop by BB&T Ballpark. In all, he said more than 100 people came out to see him during this week’s three-game Dash home stand.
That’s why, as bat boys cleaned the dugout next to him, Beatty was still standing at the rail taking it in Thursday night.
“If it wasn’t for the security guards wanting me to leave, I’d be out here until sun up signing autographs and putting smiles on kids’ faces. I like inspiring the youth just to continue to push,” he said.
Since 2009, Beatty has been on the speaking circuit, encouraging people to believe in themselves and commit to goals. Now, he has another story to back up his message.
“I was just like, ‘I don’t think it’s going to happen.’” Beatty said. “But it taught me something; it’s not over until the fat lady sings, and I guess the fat lady hasn’t sung yet.”