Beckham enjoys his special day
Surrounded by family, friends, shortstop soaks up moment
GRIFFIN, Ga. -- He did the best he could, but no secret this 18-year-old held could be considered safe.
Tim Beckham's smile -- and ear-to-ear would have been an understatement -- never left for the five hours he was in the GTO Events Center for his 2008 First-Year Player Draft party.
And why should it?
This was his day, from the hors d'oeuvres to the sweet tea to the 100 of his closest friends and family that crammed in to watch two enormous hi-definition televisions showcase Beckham's future plans.
"I don't think all of Griffin will be here, but it'll be a lot," Beckham said hours before the party started.
The party really started as the 2:15 p.m. ET deadline approached. Beckham made his rounds, of course, exchanging high-fives with current and former teammates, hugging a slew of aunts who found their way to Griffin.
Beckham occasionally bumped into his brother Jeremy, who has been instrumental in his progression. Jeremy's greatest gift: a relentless work ethic that Tim adopted since he began tagging along as a kid.
"I'm ecstatic, man," said Jeremy, a ballplayer himself. "That's my brother, man, that's my blood, and it's a day you look forward to."
It certainly has been for Tim, as Draft day could seemingly never come soon enough. Beckham said he knew late Wednesday night that there was a 90 percent chance he'd land with the Rays. By Thursday morning, there was no doubt.
He left the 100 or so in attendance to guess which team would pick him up.
Some friends said they had heard he was the No. 1 pick, but weren't certain. All they really needed to look at was Beckham's smile to figure out his next destination.
His parents, Jimmy and Ella, took their seat at an elevated table behind the TV screens. Tim was to their right, trying on fitted Rays hats to see which one fit best.
Local TV cameras and photographers caught the moment, but it seemed no one else did. The suspense never left.
Asked if she expected her son to be in this position, Ella said, "He's always been thinking years down the road and he dreams big. He always told me that 'Mama, I'm going to make it.'"
The crowd clapped and hooted when the ESPN2 coverage began, their anticipation was palpable as every minute ticked off Tampa Bay's five-minute allotment.
Finally, it came time.
Beckham, with a Rays jersey and cap behind his seat, deeply exhaled and clutched his head in his hands as Commissioner Bud Selig began his address.
His name called first, Beckham flew out of his chair -- as did everyone else in the room -- and pumped his fist. He was mobbed by family, and bear hugs ensued for all.
Out came the jersey and cap, and rest assured, they both fit snuggly.
"I'm going to have to take a sedative, I haven't slept in days," said his mother. "I'm just going off pure energy. I'm just hyped."
ESPN's Karl Ravech got Beckham on the phone, and everyone in the room went silent.
Wondering aloud when she heard her son on TV, Ella asked, "Is this my boy? The one who doesn't clean his room?"
Jimmy broke down during his post-Draft speech.
"I'm a man who prays and my prayers were answered," Jimmy said.
Beckham's dad said all of the Draft hype began after the AFLAC All-American game last summer, which brought together the 32 best high school players in the nation. Tim Beckham was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
"We determined early on that he had what it takes," said Jimmy, beaming with pride. "When we came back from the AFLAC game, we were hearing that he wasn't just compared to high school kids anymore, but college players, too."
That game served as a springboard for his senior season, one his coach, Jamie Cassady, won't soon forget.
"It was sort of a dream season," Cassady said. "We've got graduation on Saturday and one of my players is the first pick of the Draft on Thursday.
"I got a little chill bone and teary-eyed when I heard that announced on TV. I couldn't be happier for his family and it's a great situation for Tim."
And it's a situation that may only get sweeter. Beckham's brother, Jeremy, is also expected to be drafted during Friday's selections -- and the Rays are interested.
What's one more day of anticipation for the Beckham family?
Ryan Lavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.