On Pro Baseball
---- — BOSTON — Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks took just four years to get from short-season Lowell to Boston and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury took only two years.
Arnie Beyeler, on the other hand, arrived in Boston 12 years after first donning a Spinners uniform.
And the 49-year-old’s journey to the majors began well before his Lowell days. His professional career launched in 1986 as the second baseman for the rookie level Bristol Tigers.
Twenty-seven years later — with jobs along the way as a player, scout, minor league coach and manager with his first managerial experience coming in Lowell in 2000-01 — Beyeler finally has arrived in the big leagues as first base coach of the Boston Red Sox.
“They told me I’m not allowed to complain anymore because I’m in the big leagues,” Beyeler said smiling before a game at Fenway Park. “All of it goes into the opportunities and the people I’ve met and things I’ve learned along the way to give me an opportunity and a chance to be up here.”
The Red Sox coaching staff is an interesting one because it has a variety of differing experience levels. Third base coach Brian Butterfield has been on multiple big league staffs, earning his first opportunity in 1994 as the New York Yankees first base coach.
But three coaches of the eight-member staff — assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, bullpen coach Dana LeVangie and Beyeler — never coached or played in the majors until this season.
Beyeler’s situation is interesting in and of itself because you have to wonder whether he would have gotten his first major league gig with the 2013 Boston Red Sox had he not managed Triple-A Pawtucket to the International League’s Governors’ Cup last year. That seemed to open more eyes. Some in the media even began to suggest Beyeler be given an interview for the open Boston managerial position because of it.
That said, Beyeler did have prior relationships with some members of this coaching staff. He was teammates with Lovullo at Single-A Fayetteville in 1987.
“It’s different up here,” Beyeler admitted. “It’s all about the wins and losses. And that’s great. That’s what it’s about realistically anyway. But you’ve always got the crutch in the minor leagues with the player development thing.”
Beyeler never was concerned over whether he’d be given an opportunity to manage or coach in the big leagues.
“I enjoy not working for a living,” Beyeler said, explaining that being a coach/manager is not work. “We joke about it all time. One of these days we might have to go to work for a living. I’m just going to kind of enjoy this while I can and while I get opportunities.”
In Lowell, Beyeler managed Kevin Youkilis, now the Yankees third baseman. He said he still runs into some of the grounds crew members and Jon Goode, the Spinners vice president of corporate communications.
“It was a great place to start,” Beyeler said. “Great place to be.”
Beyeler learned a lot in Lowell and since then in his journey up the minor league levels as a manger.
Since Lowell, he has become more patient. He better understands what ways young players need structure and discipline. He has gotten a better understanding of players and how hard the game really is and a better perspective of what it takes to get to the big leagues as a player.
“It was always a great satisfaction to work with players and then get to see them go to the big leagues,” Beyeler said. “You kind of get that same satisfaction up here with guys who come up. You get to work with guys and see them play.”
Beyeler was a gritty, small-ball type of minor league player listed at 5-foot-9 but perhaps even shorter. He would hit either second or at the bottom of the lineup. He played 584 minor league games with just 29 coming at Triple-A.
“I could run a little bit, catch the ball, play in the middle of the infield and never hit a lot when I got in pro ball,” the .254 career hitter said.
But many times, below-average ballplayers turn into above-average coaches. That’s the case with Beyeler, who certainly learned a lot about coaching while playing at Wichita State from 1984-86 under legendary head coach Gene Stephenson who has been with the program since 1977. Stephenson was one of the first people to call to congratulate Beyeler after he was named to the Red Sox coaching staff.
“He taught us how to play aggressively and to use your ability whatever your ability was,” Beyeler said about Stephenson. “He allowed guys to play. ... It was not about him. It was about the players. If you were a fast guy, you ran. If you were a power guy, you hit. I got a great base through him.”
Beyeler works with Red Sox outfielders and is in charge of outfield positioning.
He also throws batting practice to the Red Sox bench players because his fastball has the most velocity of any coach on the staff. The increased velocity is beneficial for those who don’t play every day.
“He definitely brings more of a game-time atmosphere to us,” backup outfielder/first baseman Mike Carp said.
Carp added that Beyeler does a ton of scouting and planning to get his outfielders into the right positions.
“Every batter has the tendency to do something,” Carp explained. “(Shane) Victorino and (Jacoby) Ellsbury, they’ve been around a while so they already have a book on some of the (hitters). They have their own tendencies (defensively). But it does help that Arnie does his homework and says, ‘Hey, I got this for you. Use it if you need it.’ And Arnie, if he sees something in the game, he’ll shift guys over.”