SAN FRANCISCO -- When Vanderbilt's Class of 2019 gathered on the school's alumni lawn May 10, there was a spot waiting for one of the school's most famous recent students. But Tyler Beede was thousands of miles away.
The right-hander had pitched two relief innings at Coors Field the previous night and would come out of the bullpen four days later against the Toronto Blue Jays as the Giants experimented with an opener for the first time. But like so many others on May 10, Beede officially became a graduate of Vanderbilt University.
When the Giants took Beede 14th overall out of the pitching factory in 2014, he was just 19 credits short of getting his degree in organizational management. Beede picked classes back up in 2017 and this spring, five weeks before he celebrated his first win in the majors, he got his degree.
"Ultimately that was a desire of mine to go and finish up as soon as possible," Beede said. "I knew the longer I waited the less I would feel inclined to want to go and take classes. I was glad I was already that close to graduating, and then the rest was just finding time, finding the right situation for me, and then just hammering them out from there."
It's not always easy for a prospect to find that right situation, and not just because it would take some serious self-motivation for any guy in his mid-20s to sign up for classes when he received a $2.6 million signing bonus and was closing in on a big league job. Beede initially planned to go back to Nashville in the fall of 2017, but a groin injury ended that season prematurely and he was sent to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost innings.
Beede was excited to be back on a mound, but also bummed that he couldn't go back to Vanderbilt to knock out some classes. He reached out to the school, which does not have online classes, with a simple question: "Is there anything I can do?" Beede was told he could finish up his hours at nearby Arizona State and transfer those over.
He took three courses while pitching in the Fall League that year and then three more during spring training the next year. While teammates might have been headed to the golf course after games, he was often doing homework. Occasionally he would sit in the clubhouse before a game -- not one he was starting -- and take an online test.
"In the past I was like, I don't want to focus on anything else except baseball, and then once I got into the routine of spring training and what it was like and what to expect, I knew what kind of time I had," he said. "There is a lot of free time in spring training, especially early on when it's just pitchers and catchers. We're done by like 1 (p.m.) so it gives me time on the back end to do stuff.
"It wasn't ideal to do both (baseball and school) at the same time, but it kind of reminded me of college when I had to do both. It was worth it to have it finished and not be a distraction going forward or something I had to worry about."
Beede said he always knew he wanted to get his degree no matter how his professional career turned out. When the Blue Jays took him with the 21st pick in 2011, he turned down a $2.5 million bonus and went to school, in part because of conversations with family members who told him there was tremendous value in getting a free education at a prestigious school and then pursuing his big league dreams afterward.
Beede finally appears close to realizing the latter part. Still just 26, he has shown flashes of the potential that twice got him drafted in the first round. Beede has a 6.96 ERA overall as a rookie, but that first win came last week when he struck out seven in six strong innings at Dodger Stadium. The Giants are anxious to see if he can finally lock down a rotation spot and have given him a long leash.
The first win always comes with a souvenir baseball and the scorecard from the game, and when Beede finds a spot for the items in his offseason home, he may need to clear out a bit more room. A breakthrough on the mound kept Beede from flying to Nashville for graduation, but the diploma was sent to his parents in Massachusetts. He told his mom she'll need to mail it to him.
"I'll have that hung up somewhere in my house for sure," Beede said.