Every time Fresno State steamed around the bases and scored another run, Beckham, too, did his lap around the same small spot on Rosenblatt Stadium's shortstop dirt. It was the second game of the College World Series final, and Georgia was blowing its chance to clinch hit after maddening hit. Fresno State, the other Bulldogs – and the all-time underdogs – started with a six-run inning, then tacked on five, and four more after that, and by the end of their 19-10 win Tuesday to force a win-it-all championship game Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET, Beckham had practically carved a tunnel with his spikes.
By the end of the fifth inning, down 15-6, Beckham – the heart of Georgia, the emotional, spiritual, vocal and physical leader – understood this would not be the night to celebrate. He would have to wait one more day to start his professional career, to finally talk with Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, the man who drafted him eighth overall earlier in the month.
Beckham has held off from talking with the White Sox, lest he surrender any of the focus that he's channeling toward one goal – and, now, one game.
"Fresno State had the merry-go-round or circus or whatever you want to call it," Beckham said. "They were going around the bases all night. They're a good team. I told y'all last night."
Which happened to be when Beckham rescued his Bulldogs for the umpteenth time this season. Beckham's two-run home run in the eighth inning, his 27th this season, propelled Georgia during a come-from-behind win in Game 1.
Entering the season, he was one of the nation's best prospects following a dominant summer in the Cape Cod League, the premier wood-bat showcase for college players. Still, even the cheeriest optimist would not have figured Beckham for more home runs than he hit in his first two seasons combined, let alone a batting average above .400, nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts and 17 stolen bases to boot.
Side by side, Beckham's brilliance and fallibility showcased itself in Game 2. He smacked three hits … and got caught stealing twice, doubling his season total. He walked twice … and scored just once despite getting on base five times. He drove in two more runs … and allowed one when a line drive sizzled through his glove. He turned a double play … and watched a ball drop between him and left fielder Lyle Allen, neither more than 3 feet from its landing spot.
"If I've got to run out there to the warning track and catch it tomorrow," Beckham said, "I'll go catch it."
There were explanations for all the flubs. Beckham owned up to them anyway. When Georgia coach David Perno answered a question directed toward Beckham on one of the caught stealings, Beckham inquired: "Butting in?"
He's got an acerbic wit and sharp tongue and doesn't spare his teammates. Beckham said Allen should have caught the ball and that the pitchers need to get more outs instead of allowing a ping-fest that devolves into a football game.
"We had a tough time defending the post pattern across the middle," Perno said.
The line drives through the middle concerned Beckham most. After the game that saw a clean 100 batters, he was the first Georgia player off the field. He had no interest in watching Fresno State celebrate. Beckham retreated to the back, where he chewed his fingernails, ever cognizant that in less than 24 hours, he would either be posing on the field with the national championship trophy or sitting, head buried in hands, tears wading their way through his best efforts to stop them.
"I think I'll sleep fine, to be honest," Beckham said. "I'm kind of tired."
And with that, it was off to the bus, where his teammates awaited. The police escort tried to shoo away the fans clamoring for autographs.
"Can we do this tomorrow?" Beckham asked.
"We're not going to be here," said a kid.
"When you coming up with the Sox?" one man asked.
"I hope soon," Beckham said.
Beckham signed again.
He did so for another dozen people over the next 100 feet, all the way to the bus, his uniform still on, his left pantleg caked with dirt on the front and back, his hat moist with sweat from the leftover thunderstorm humidity hovering in the air.
Beckham finally made it through the gauntlet, walked to the middle of the charter and looked like he was about to take a seat.
The door closed and the bus pulled away. Beckham was still standing. He started to talk. His teammates listened rapt. Through the glass, his words couldn't be made out. But Beckham did give an indication of his message.
He held out his index finger, a single one, and jabbed it through the air, and it didn't take a lip reader to know exactly what he was saying.
- Gordon Beckham