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A pitching prospect carries dad's memory

By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

DENVER -- John Beaven got to realize his dream. The Rays signed him out of a tryout camp last week and made him a professional baseball player, assigning the right-handed pitcher to the Rookie League team in Hudson Valley, N.Y.

Alan Beaven, however, won't share in his son's accomplishment.

The terrorists who hijacked United flight 93 that crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11 took care of that, killing Alan Beaven and 39 other passengers and crew members.

"Because it was my dream, it was his dream," Beaven said Friday. "He spent countless hours playing catch with me. He would have been thrilled beyond words."

Beaven, 21, was visiting friends in Australia on Sept. 11 when his mother called with the news, and it was five "mind-numbing" days until he could get back to the United States.

"The people in Australia had moved past it because it hadn't touched them and I really felt separated from it," Beaven said. "I was really apprehensive flying back to the U.S. because of what effect the condition of the country would have on me."

When he got back, he immediately stepped into a whirlwind of activity, attending a memorial service in Pennsylvania, going to New York where his father was living, then going to the White House to meet President Bush, all in the span of two days. Later, he carried the Olympic torch in his father's honor.

"Basically it was just nonstop," Beaven said. "The death of a parent is one thing, but the events and circumstances magnify it just that much more."

Beaven was determined to continue his baseball career, and he was back on the field immediately at the University of California-San Diego, dedicating the season to his father, a 48-year-old celebrated environmental lawyer who once was a lead prosecutor at Scotland Yard.

"He was not one to dwell on the past," Beaven said. "He would say look ahead to the future and handle what you can. I also felt that baseball was my best therapy, to go on the field and work hard and go after it and try my best. That's what he would have wanted."

Before each game, John knelt on the mound and drew his father's initials in the dirt. He hasn't decided whether to continue that practice as a pro, but will honor him in some way.

He's sure his father won't be far away.

"Absolutely, I feel like he'll be with me every step of the way from here on out," Beaven said. "I'm thankful for what he gave me and I'm thankful for what he gave the country."

ON THE GRAPEVINE: Managing general partner Vince Naimoli assures that the Rays are not having financial problems and are not a candidate for contraction.

There is a different perception in baseball circles.

Last week, Giants owner Peter Magowan approached a Times reporter and asked how bad the Rays' financial problems were and if they were going to make it through this season, because he heard they were facing huge losses.

Then, Magowan asked about contraction. Told Naimoli has said he will not volunteer for contraction, Magowan said, "It may not be his choice," suggesting Major League Baseball might seek a second team to eliminate along with Montreal.

FLASH POINT: For months, it seemed a foregone conclusion that veteran catcher John Flaherty was gone at the end of the season. But now there is talk among Rays officials about trying to resign Flaherty.

Assuming Toby Hall is still considered the eventual starter, the Rays probably will have to convince Flaherty he will have a meaningful backup role, and make a competitive offer. Flaherty will have to decide if he'd rather see what is available on the free-agent market, especially if there is a chance to join a contending team.

HOO-RAYS: The Giants are said to be interested in trading for Randy Winn. The Rays also have fielded calls on Steve Cox and Aubrey Huff, as well as Paul Wilson. ... The small share of the team owned by Claude Focardi, who died last week, is expected to stay in his family. ... Cole Smith, the team's 19th-round draft pick, must be something special -- the Rays have given him a bonus in excess of $200,000.

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