by Mike Duprez, The Dispatch - When he was a young kid growing up, Austin Beck admired North Davidson players such as Levi Michael and aspired to be one of them.
He’s done that and then some.
It was just in June when Beck was drafted No. 6 overall by the Oakland A’s in the Major League Draft, which led to a franchise-record $5.3 million signing bonus.
On Wednesday, Beck was at Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem signing autographs, unveiling his new signature souvenir bat and visiting with pediatric cancer patients. It’s something he has wanted to do ever since he met cancer patient Gavin Hill three years ago.
“It was a thrill,” Beck said. “It was a dream of mine to go up there and give back. Putting smiles on kids’ faces who are going through tough times, that are in dire need of uplifting. When I went up there it was a dream come true.”
Hill, an eighth-grader who will be at North Davidson next year, is also a baseball player. Like many other kids, he saw Beck play for the Black Knights.
That’s exactly the position Beck was in when he watched North stars like Zach White, Daniel Kassouf, Clay Watson and Michael.
But now he’s the celebrity and a rising star within the A’s system. Beck is currently listed as the No. 6 overall prospect in the A’s system. He’s comfortable with the expectations.
“It’s fun,” Beck said. “I used to look up to kids like Levi Michael when I was growing up. I always wanted to be like them and do what they were doing, play pro baseball. I just want to be a role model for all the kids that look up to me. It’s really exciting.”
Michael was himself a first-round draft pick in 2011 (30th overall) by the Minnesota Twins and has played in their organization for six years.
Beck hit .211 with 2 home runs and 28 RBIs for the rookie-level AZL A’s of the Arizona League following his signing. His numbers dramatically improved after a 4-for-45 start and he hit over .400 in the fall Arizona Instructional League.
After he got home for the offseason, Beck knew what he had to do.
“When I got back from Arizona, I knew I had to make this happen as soon as possible,” Beck said.
The new bat Beck showed off to the children is the Austin Beck Prospect Series benefiting pediatric cancer research. It is being produced by Anchor Bat Company, which is based in Greenville, S.C.
“It’s the same model I use in the games,” Beck said. “We’re putting it on sale to raise money for childhood cancer research and Brenner Children’s Hospital.”
And now it’s about getting ready for next season, which will be Beck’s first with a full-season team.