They had to start without him, but that was OK with Matt Beichner.
His chair remained empty for the first minutes of the spring national letter of intent signing ceremony at Discovery Canyon Campus. Instead of listening to praises directed toward him and three of his classmates, the Thunder baseball player and his family were paying visits to local FedEx locations, trying to locate a package sent from his future home at Central Christian College of Kansas.
When the search came up empty, he still had plenty of time to soak in the experience with his friends.
“I got there late, but it was cool to sit up there and have people take pictures of me,” Beichner said. “It was cool to be in the spotlight for just a bit.”
Perhaps he cherished the moment a little bit more due to his arduous path to the signing table. One year ago, the second baseman couldn’t crack the varsity lineup and had but one season to show his talents at the highest level.
“I wasn’t very happy about playing on JV as a junior, but I did get playing time, and that pushed me to keep working,” Beichner said. “A huge part is trusting the process. It’s going to fall the way it’s supposed to.”
Beichner shared the limelight with teammate Henry “Hal” Hutcheon (Lawson State Community College), along with Alyssa Madrigal (softball to North Platte Community College) and Haley Bryant (volleyball to Lake Forest University).
Thunder baseball coach Justin Ross spoke highly of his future college student-athletes and predicted bigger things in their futures.
“I would love for our kids that graduate from Discovery Canyon, regardless of sport, to have more success in college than in high school,” Ross said. “I like to have a program that develops kids, no matter where they play or bat in the lineup, where they are always developing and learning the game. We want them to go off to college and thrive.”
That’s what Hutcheon is thinking, too.
The infielder sat out his entire junior season recovering from surgery to repair his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow — known in baseball circles as Tommy John surgery — and is thankful he has an opportunity to play at the next level.
“Tommy John was a big setback on my baseball career,” said Hutcheon, whose father, Mike, coached the Air Force baseball team and older brother, Dane, graduated from Pine Creek and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. “It feels good to come back from that and know I’m going to go somewhere for college. That’s big.”
And as far as that package goes? Well, it eventually arrived on the Beichner’s porch.
“We got it a few days late,” Beichler said. “But we got it.”