By Will LeBlond
At some point, every athlete grapples with the toughest question of their playing careers at some point: “Do I keep playing or call it a career?”
For Newfield native and now Tompkins Cortland Community College alumnus Mickey Beach, the task of deciding whether or not to keep playing baseball wasn’t the only thing he had to grapple. Beach, who played two seasons of the sport at TC3, had the option to keep on playing baseball at Wells College with its startup program under coach David Valesente, or venture down south and continue with a different passion of his, coaching.
Beach, who had played baseball for as long as he could remember, optioned to hang up the spikes and took a position as a student assistant manager for the defending Division I National Champion Coastal Carolina Chanticleers baseball team. Newfield to Conway, S.C., where the school is located, is not a path often traveled, so Beach had to embark on his own path to continue his baseball and academic career.
“I didn’t have any connections there,” said Beach. “Out of high school I applied here and got accepted, but I was 17 years old and wasn’t ready to go 900 miles away from home.
“After a few years in college, I decided it was time to step away from home and figure out more about myself, so I made the leap of faith,” he added.
Beach started building his coaching resume about five years ago, but he said a summer of coaching the American Legion team in Newfield between his freshman and sophomore years at TC3 is what really pushed him down the road in the profession.
“It was a good summer and I learned a lot about myself and what I wanted to do,” said Beach. “That was probably the biggest step right there.”
Following the summer, Beach returned to TC3 and was named team captain for Coach Ryan Stevens’ Panthers squad. He completed his collegiate career by appearing in five games on the mound in 2016. Beach stayed with Stevens this past summer when he worked as an intern for the Onondaga Flames of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
“Mickey already has some valuable baseball experience and learning under Coach Gilmore (head coach of the Coastal Carolina baseball team) is a chance of a lifetime,” said Stevens, in a prepared statement released by the Onondaga Flames. “We are very proud to have him a part of our Onondaga Flames staff this summer.”
Now in the role of student assistant manager, Beach’s duties will include assisting in setting up the field for batting practice, hitting infield practice and throwing batting practice to the players of the powerhouse Chanticleers team. He will also travel with the program to away games, which is one of the aspects that makes Beach feel welcomed to the team community.
“The guys treat the managers like we’re part of the team, they treat us well,” said Beach. “It’s a good time, a great experience and there’s great camaraderie. These guys are my brothers and I’m very fortunate to be here.”
Dealing with the day-to-day rigors of a baseball program should be easier for Beach, given the change in climate that he is now experiencing. With college teams in the Finger Lakes area wrapping up their fall baseball programs and heading indoors as the temperatures dip into the 30s, the Chanticleers are able to stay outside as the weather in South Carolina has stayed in the 70s during the fall months.
In addition to the climate adjustment, Beach has also continued his education in pursuit of a degree in sports management in an academic setting quite different from the one he had at TC3.
“At TC3, it was a small school and all the classes were in one building,” said Beach. “Here it’s a huge campus, I think there are 15,000 students on-campus. There are all types of people, they’re all great people and they’re all so nice, I guess that goes along with the Southern hospitality.”
The competitive spring season will start up for Coastal Carolina in mid-February when the Chanticleers try to defend their College World Series title. Beach doesn’t need to wait that long to know that he made the right decision by moving down to South Carolina.
“Maybe an hour after my first day, I knew that I had made the right choice,” said Beach. “It was a tough decision to hang up the spikes, but it was probably one of the best decisions I had made in my life.”