Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview Part 4: Kash Beauchamp, Fight For

Kash Beauchamp, far right, and his 2008 Wichita Wingnuts. (Photo Provided)
Part 1: Played Hard | Part 2: Big Memory 
Part 3: Pretty Simple | Part 4: Fight For

In the span of 60 or so seconds, Wichita Wingnuts manager Kash Beauchamp stuck his shoe it in the umpire's face, stuck his armpit in the umpire's face and finally used batting practice doughnuts to suggest the umpire needed glasses.

It was a tirade in summer 2008 that cost Beauchamp four games. It was also a tirade, caught on video, that made national news.

By that point, Beauchamp had been a manager in independent ball for a decade. And that tirade wasn't his first.

"Some of the better ones never made it on video," Beauchamp joked recently to The Greatest 21 Days recently. "I'd say the most famous one is probably about my fifth best one."

But there was usually a method to Beauchamp's on-field madness, he said. That was to motivate his team, to defend his deam.

"I feel like managing a baseball club is very similar to being a father," Beauchamp said. "There's times to pat your guys on the butt. There's times that you kick them in the butt. And there's times you have to fight for them to let them know that you care for them."

Beauchamp spoke with The Greatest 21 Days by phone recently from his Tulsa-area home. A member of the 1990 Phoenix Firebirds, Beauchamp recounted his professional career, from growing up in Oklahoma the son of a major leaguer, to turning pro himself and pursuing his own major league dreams.
Kash Beauchamp taking a swing with Wichita. (Photo Provided)
He spoke of his early success, and later injuries that slowed his career. He then spoke of his turn to independent ball, first as a player and later as a manager, where he gained a reputation for defending his players and for sometimes fiery confrontations with umpires. He also spoke of his turn to youth instruction.

Beauchamp started his managerial career after a decade-long career as a player in the minors. His first stint in the minors ended in 1990, playing AAA and then AA ball in the Giants system. His last hit came in the Texas League playoffs, he recalled, a home run.

Released out of spring training 1991. Beauchamp believed his career might be over. So, he went and coached at a junior college in Alabama, coached both basketball and baseball.

"Deep down, I knew I still could play," Beauchamp recalled. "I wanted to play."

And he could. In 1993, he heard about independent ball. Recruited by Doug Simunic, manager of the fledgeling Rochester Aces, Beauchamp returned to pro ball.

In 47 games for the Aces, he hit .367, with 9 home runs, winning league MVP honors. He also earned 18 games with the Reds at AA Chattanooga and 88 games in the Dodgers system the next season, finally ending his full-time playing days.
 
Kash Beauchamp's infamous 2008 tirade with Wichita. (YouTube)

From there, Beauchamp signed on with the Expos as a minor league coach. He stayed there for three seasons, but it wasn't for him. Too political, he recalled.

For 1998, Beuchamp returned to independent ball, with New Jersey. Independent ball, Beauchamp, was more his style. In independent ball, he could be the manager, the general manager and the scouting director.

"I fell in love with independent baseball," Beauchamp said. "I could tell a guy, 'If you don't run balls out, I'm going to fire your ass.'"

In affiliated ball, depending on the player, that wasn't necessarily the case.

Beauchamp ended up spending a total of 10 seasons managing in independent baseball, including three at New Jersey, a season in Glens Falls, NY, with Adirondack and that 2008 season in Wichita.

In that time, Beauchamp gained a reputation for his on-field tirades. He recalled looking up to guys like Billy Martin and Lou Piniella. He identified with them in the dugout.

"I think baseball misses that, I really do," Beauchamp said.

 But there's also a time and a place for that, he said.

"I felt like my teams played hard for me in independent ball because I would fight for them," Beauchamp said.

If he's going to ask his players to fight for him, to run over catchers, to break up double plays, Beauchamp said he felt like he had to do the same, by taking up for his players with the umpires.

At the time of the 2008 Wichita tirade, Beauchamp recalled having to light into his own players for poor play days earlier. The tirade was the other end, defending them. Wichita also came back to win, he recalled.
Kash Beauchamp congratulating a player in 2008 at Wichita. (Photo Provided)
"That was an opportunity for me to also take up for them," Beauchamp said, "let them know that I have their backs. I'll chew your butt out, but I've also got your back.

Beauchamp also had the same rules his father had as a manager, Beauchamp said: Show up on time, bust your butt and be a professional on and off the field.

"If you want to play for me, those are the three things you have to do," Beauchamp said. "And when a guy doesn't bust his ass, I've got a problem with that."

When guys didn't give their all, like running out balls, Beauchamp called them out on it. Toward the end, he thought that started rubbing some guys the wrong way.

He recalled one player in particular in that 2008 Wichita season that didn't do that. He was a former major leaguer. Beauchamp recalled not getting brought back, not for that tirade, but for the dispute with that player.

"I'm very old school, I'm very hard-nosed," Beauchamp said. "But I'm very fair with it across the board."

After that season in Wichita, Beauchamp made his way back to Oklahoma and went in a new direction, coaching youth. He is now with Perfect Practice Athletic Center in Tulsa, offering youth hitting instruction. Beauchamp, lives near Tulsa and has three children, ages 24, 20 and 15.

With his new career, he's also had to change his approach to coaching. With youth, he said, he tries to be very nurturing. Kids, he said, can't deal with failure.

"I have to teach them how to fail," Beauchamp said. "I don't like to lose. I was not a good loser. That was my worst trait as a manager."
Kash Beauchamp coaching a youth on a trip to Taiwan. (Photo Provided)
"Working with kids," he added, "has taught me how to accept failure within my teams."

With teaching kids, Beauchamp said, he's found nothing is better than teaching them the game.

He also enjoys seeing those same kids go on to college, on baseball scholarships. One of the students he worked at previously in Georgia, he said, was Josh Lester, who is now playing ball in 2013 at the University of Missouri.

"That's the greatest thing that I've ever gotten out of baseball," Beauchamp said, "is being able to get the thanks of a kid I helped, or seeing one of my kids get a scholarship."

He's also seen one of his Georgia students, Anfernee Grier, get drafted, taken by the Tigers late in 2013. Another hit his first collegiate home run.

"That right there, to me, that's what it's all about," Beauchamp said. "Seeing these kids get something from what I teach them, that's the greatest gift that I've ever gotten from baseball."

Part 1: Played Hard | Part 2: Big Memory 
Part 3: Pretty Simple | Part 4: Fight For

2 comments:

  1. Kash has a gift for teaching. He worked with my son and in 15 minutes had the ball jumping off his bat like never before. Some of it was improved mechanics, but a lot of it was building his confidence.

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  2. OK, THIS is the site I've been seeking! This is the one I'd love to have started! Well done!

    By the way, I have a similar interest in tracking down the players who were in these sets. If there's anything I can do to help, let me know. I'm sure I can find time for this project, in addition to the other writing I do from time to time. Drop me a line.

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