Right-handed pitcher Adam Beach — a 2008 Vermilion High graduate — became the answer to a trivia question that has been asked since the franchise began back in 2009 when he made his debut for the Lake Erie Crushers, starting the second game of a doubleheader against the Frontier Greys on July 12.
The question: Who was the first Lorain County native to appear in a game at All Pro Freight Stadium in a Crushers uniform?
“I’m surprised to hear that when you think of all the good baseball players to come out of Lorain County,” said Beach, who is 1-0 with a 5.63 ERA in two professional starts. “When I went to (Lake Erie College), I went with about 10-12 players from Lorain County. I played with a lot of great players, such as (Amherst’s Ryan) Rua, who’s in the Rangers’ system, and Kyle Shaw, who pitched here once just before I was signed.”
While Keystone grad Shaw technically became the first Lorain County native to be signed by the Crushers — getting one start on the road before being released — Beach has not only been the first to start in front of the home fans, but he’s also been able to stick.
Beach has gotten a big cheering section during his two home starts, especially from his hometown of Vermilion.
“People that I haven’t talked to in a long time have been contacting me and congratulating me,” he said. “Everybody in Vermilion’s been really supportive. My parents keep running into people saying, ‘Tell Adam we said good luck.’
“Everybody’s getting behind me, and that helps knowing that, regardless of what happens, everybody’s got your back.”
Beach had never even attended a game at All Pro Freight Stadium before he donned the Crushers uniform.
“I always read the papers to see if the Crushers won whenever I was at my parents’ house,” he said. “But I wasn’t too much of a fan because I was with the Ironmen and then was busy with school and pitching for Lake Erie. Heck, I didn’t really follow the Indians that much the last few years.
“But now, I’m a huge fan (of the Crushers).”
After pitching at Lake Erie College, Beach settled into a sales job at Total Quality Logistics, working nine-hour days in an office, thinking his baseball career was over.
But fate intervened.
Beach came to All Pro Freight Stadium three weeks ago at the invitation of Crushers manager Jeff Isom and pitching coach Chris Mongiardo and threw a bullpen session.
Beach didn’t hear from the team again until just days before the scheduled doubleheader on July 12.
“Out of the blue, they called me and said, ‘Hey, do you want to come start?’” Beach said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ It’s everybody’s dream to play pro ball, so I can’t complain.
“It’s been a little bit of an adventure to get here, but sometimes that’s how it goes. Everybody has their own way to get here. Some people come from the minor leagues and others come from sitting at home, and I just happened to be found sitting at home.”
Mongiardo was a coach with the Lorain County Ironmen of the Prospect League last season when Beach was a member of the staff. Last summer, Beach started 10 of the 11 games he appeared for the Ironmen, going 3-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 60⅓ innings. He struck out 53 and walked 27.
“Whether he gives up zero runs or five runs, I knew he wouldn’t crumble out there,” Mongiardo said following Beach’s debut. “After seeing him eight or nine times last year, that’s the one thing I knew about him and put my name on. He’s going to battle you and get through his innings, somehow.”
Beach is also the first player to play for both the Ironmen and the Crushers.
“Even after the Ironmen season ended, I’d talk to Monge a lot, since he lives out by Lake Erie College,” Beach said. “He came out to some of our games to scout for the Padres. He’s just been keeping in contact with me, saying that there could be an opportunity here.”
The second start didn’t go as smoothly as the first for Beach. He went three innings Tuesday night against the defending Frontier League champion Southern Illinois Miners, giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks and a strikeout.
Fortunately, the bullpen responded with 14 innings of one-run ball and the Crushers rallied to come away with a wild 5-4 win in 17 innings in a game that took 5:47 to complete — the longest game by innings and time in team history.
“The first time, I just executed my game plan well,” said Beach, who will start on three days rest tonight against the River City Rascals. “The second time, I just didn’t. It didn’t go well, but we still won the game. That’s all that matters to me, even though I only gave them three innings and the game went 17.”
Isom believes Beach has a solid arm and can be cultivated into becoming a solid professional pitcher.
“We saw some really good things from (Beach) in that first outing,” Isom said. “A lot of times when you get a rookie in there, you don’t know what to expect, especially with a true rookie with no professional experience at all.
“He gave up two hits and two runs in his first two hitters, but then settled down and didn’t allow anything else for his five innings. There’s something there. He has a live arm and he’s adapting to professional baseball, getting himself into a routine.”
After his poor outing Tuesday, Isom believes that Beach deserves more chances.
“He left some balls up and got himself in trouble, especially with two outs,” Isom said. “Two of the three runs he gave up were with two outs. One thing we talk about in professional baseball is pitching to contact, and he got ahead of some guys but tried too hard to make that perfect pitch and it cost him. He’s got to trust his guys behind him that they will make plays.”
Beach said there’s a huge difference from the Prospect League to the Frontier League.
“Everybody on this team was the best player on their college team or didn’t even play college once they got drafted,” Beach said. “The defense, I think, is the biggest part that I see. By far, it’s the best defense I’ve ever pitched in front of at any level.
“Seeing how much these guys love playing baseball … I mean, everybody likes playing baseball, but I’ve never been around a group of guys that want to win and love being around the game as much as these guys, and I want to be a part of it. It makes you love it that much more.”
Beach spent four years as Lake Erie College’s ace. In 45 appearances for the Storm, he started 40 times, going 18-13 with a 4.50 ERA. Beach struck out 211 hitters and tossed one shutout.
Isom made sure to tell the Crushers’ public relations staff that Beach was getting the start a few days before Tuesday night so they could get the word out about the local product.
“He’s a hometown kid, a local kid, which makes it more exciting,” Isom said. “After we signed him, the front office told me I needed to give them some advance notice on when he starts. Even with short notice (on July 12), just him pitching made the difference
in about 100 walk-up ticket sales.
“It’s exciting for him for his family and friends and it’s exciting for this franchise. You want to see a local guy do well for the local team.”