"I've never been good at much besides throwing a baseball," Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler said last Saturday at the 2013 Cubs Convention.
If that sounds overly humble, especially at a panel put together to celebrate Cubs prospects, its because Beeler has been humbled. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow when he was still in junior college in 2009. The injury required Tommy John surgery, and when Beeler transferred to Oral Roberts, he needed a work-study job in order to pay his way through school as he worked out and rehabbed with the team.
The Cubs noticed his progress and selected Beeler in the 41st round of the 2010, but that was four rounds later than he was picked coming out of high school two years earlier. When the topic of his draft round came up, Beelers eager nature subsided a bit.
"The way I thought of it was 'I'm not getting drafted as a number, I'm getting drafted to have an opportunity to play,'" Beeler said.
But then he brightened up, and embraced his humble beginnings all over again.
"I'm happy that I signed in the 41st round. I'd rather be the underdog than be that guy that's in a high place and comes down. I'd rather be the guy that comes from behind, but shines through and everyone says 'Oh my God, he's the 41st round pick, but he's here.'"
Beeler is almost here.
2012 saw the 6-foot-5 right-hander complete his first full season at Double-A Tennessee, as he tossed 136 innings (a professional career-high) across 27 starts, while holding his own with a 4.24 ERA. If Beeler makes it, it will be on the strength of his control. He's not overpowering, but he's averaged only 2.3 walks per nine innings over the course of his entire minor league career.
While each level in the minors bring a more intense challenge, one constant for Beeler has been the presence of pitching coach Jeff Fassero.
"He's been my pitching coach all three years I've been in pro ball, I think. I signed, and was in Arizona for about a week. He was pitching coach there, but I didn't get to know him. But then my first full year he was in Peoria, and I love him, he's a great guy."
Beeler was promoted to Double-A Tennessee at the end of 2011, and at the start of 2012, Fassero joined him there.
"We get into arguments on the mound," Beeler said, "He'll say this, and I'll say 'Well, I dont want to do that.' But he's one of those guys you can come to a common ground with and realize why he's wanting you to do that."
Listening to advice is something Beeler got used to during his recovery from Tommy John surgery, when he would look for insight and help from anyone who could relate to his experience.
"I talked to Josh Johnson before I had Tommy John surgery," said Beeler, "And I asked him 'any tips or tricks that you can give me?' He said 'Go with a positive attitude. Go in with the attitude of 'alright, this is going to fix me.'"
Focusing on the positive worked for Beeler, and now that he's all the way out and only steps away from realizing his major league dreams, he's all about spreading it around. When fellow Cubs pitching prospect Robert Whitenack went down with the same injury, Beeler was quick to offer an encouraging word.
"I saw Whitenack about three months after he had the surgery in Arizona and I asked him, 'How are you doing?'
"He said 'it gets tight,' and I just tried to give him my experience from it, and let him know 'You may hit a few bumps in the road -- I hit a few bumps in the road, and had a few setbacks. There's going to be pain there, but know that you have to push through the pain. There's going to be scar tissue that's going to pop and you're going to feel like you tore your ligament again, when really all you're doing is stretching it out -- getting that extension back, and getting that range of motion back.'
"Whenever he's got a question for me, I want to be there for him. With everyone who's had Tommy John surgery, it's almost like a family."
Family, humility; both are good things to fall back on for someone who's only good at throwing a baseball.