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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Osceola's power hitter, who rebounded from a back injury, joins two other county stars at Connecticut.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published July 19, 2005
Even as he walked around with a bulky plastic back brace beneath his clothing, Scott Beckwith always knew he would make it back to the baseball field.
But he didn't know how good he would be, how well he would hit the ball or how his back would hold out.
Turns out, Beckwith was pretty darned good. He hit the cover off the ball and his back was strong enough to carry Osceola all season.
While it may have been too late for Major League Baseball scouts and many Division I schools to notice, plenty others did, including the University of Connecticut.
Saturday, Beckwith signed with the Huskies, completing his comeback from a back injury that threatened his career.
He was Pinellas County's best hitter this year, batting a blistering .508 and hitting 10 doubles, two triples and six home runs. He drove in a team-high 31 runs while earning first-team all-county, all-Suncoast, all-PCAC and all-state in Class 4A.
Just a year ago, none of this seemed possible to Beckwith.
In 2004, everything was going right for him. As a junior, he was a starter on the Warriors football team that went to the playoffs and was readying for his third season as starter at third base for the baseball team.
But in between, Beckwith hit a wall. While lifting weights, he felt a twinge in his back and feared the worst. Beckwith suffered two stress fractures in his vertebrae. Though he avoided surgery, Beckwith wore a back brace for six months, causing him to miss the 2004 baseball season.
Doctors told him if the brace and rest didn't heal him, he would need to go under the knife.
"I didn't know what was going on, but I was worried," Beckwith said. "That's a long time to wear a brace, and it was killing me not playing baseball. I thought about it every day. I wondered if I'd get to play again."
Beckwith knew his junior year was important. For many colleges, it's when scholarships are handed out and plans are formulated on potential recruits, and for pro scouts, it's when future draft prospects establish themselves. But he could do little but watch the Warriors struggle without him.
When doctors removed his brace over the summer and declared him fit, he knew he would get one more chance to impress recruiters and scouts.
"I had to blow up my senior year to get a scholarship," Beckwith said. "I had to."
He flirted with a comeback to football, but broke his ankle playing a pick-up basketball game and decided that was enough multisport-tasking. He devoted his time to batting tees and cages, to getting his timing back, to being in the best possible shape for baseball.
Then he tore up county pitching. He remembers going into the Steve Georgiadis Tournament batting .392, his low mark for the year. For the rest of the season, he was the toughest out around.
"From Easter on, no one was better," Osceola coach Steve Smith said. "He was just hitting everything. Every game it seemed he was getting one or two hits."
Beckwith said he was just making up for lost time.
"I knew as soon as I got off to a hot start, from then on I wasn't cooling off," he said. "It was do or die my senior season. If I didn't have a good senior year, I wouldn't be playing baseball in college. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
"I didn't let a fastball go by me the whole year."
Beckwith, who is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, went 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles when Connecticut came to visit in the spring. He showed his power to all fields, doubling to right-center, and the Huskies were sold.
On July2, while visiting coaches in Storrs, Beckwith finally got his offer. He considered Xavier and junior colleges, but stuck with UConn, partly for the opportunity to play with boyhood friends Erik Turgeon (Dunedin) and Dale Brannon (St. Petersburg), who previously signed with the Huskies.
The trio gives the Huskies an impressive haul of county talent. Brannon was the player of the year, Beckwith would have been had Brannon not excelled as both pitcher and hitter, and Turgeon was a top infielder and relief pitcher who some thought might be draftable.
"I'd have to say, I think they got three pretty good prospects," Beckwith said.