Gordon Beckham watches his first career walk-off hit, a single to right field to lift the White Sox past the Cubs.
George LeClaire | Staff Photographer
It was noticeable in spring training.
He wasn't even on the White Sox' 40-man roster at the time, but Gordon Beckham already was carrying himself with confidence, and the lofty expectations placed on the top prospect seemed reasonable, not ridiculous.
"He's got 'it,' " Scott Podsednik said. "Not only is he talented, but he likes to compete."
The 22-year-old Beckham needed just 45 games in the minor leagues this season before getting the call from the Sox.
Against the Cubs on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field, it looked like Beckham officially arrived as a future star when he capped the White Sox' wild 8-7 victory with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
As the crowd erupted, Beckham initially was grabbed by Jim Thome and A.J. Pierzynski and then the rest of his major-league teammates for a celebratory scrum in the middle of the infield.
"I got a little nervous when I saw A.J. and Thome in full sprint," Beckham said after he drove the ball to deep right-center on the first pitch from Cubs reliever Jose Ascanio, scoring pinch runner Josh Fields from third base.
"Thome in full sprint doesn't happen much and he was moving pretty fast," Beckham continued. "So that was pretty exciting. Obviously, to get that kind of hit and have the team come get you like that, that's pretty cool."
Many critics thought Beckham - the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 draft - was rushed to the major leagues too soon.
Getting off to an 0-for-13 start with the Sox only increased the skepticism, not that Beckham was listening.
"That's a big moment," said White Sox captain Paul Konerko. "I'm happy for him. He's been working like a dog up here and it's nice to see him get rewarded with the biggest hit of his career so far.
"It's nice to see it start coming out because he's been working hard and he was in the right spot and got it done."
Beckham was looking for a fastball, and he said he was surprised when Ascanio actually threw the pitch.
"Honestly, I really didn't think he was going to throw me a fastball on the first pitch, but that's obviously what you look for, especially late in the game," Beckham said.
"So I got that pitch and it was a good pitch to hit. To do it against the Cubs in the ninth inning on a walk-off is pretty special for me."
When he first joined the White Sox, Beckham was guilty of being impatient at the plate and swinging at the first pitch. He didn't hesitate to pull the trigger early Saturday.
"Usually, in big situations, I like to swing early if it's a strike because you never know if you're going to get another good pitch to hit," Beckham said. "So I went early and it worked out. What a moment."
Beckham, a natural shortstop playing third base for the Sox, made another error Saturday, his fifth in just 20 games.
The throwing miscue in the third inning helped allow the Cubs to tie the game at 2-2, but Beckham kept his head up and gained his redemption in the ninth.
"That's always my goal, anytime, to do something good for the team," Beckham said. "But when you make a mistake and it hurts the team, obviously, it makes you want to do it even more."
Beckham has been doing just fine for the White Sox after landing on the fast track. And now that he got his first game-winning hit out of the way, the rookie should be able to relax and settle in even more.
"It's nice to see a kid be in that situation and come through," Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "I was excited for him. It's not easy to go to the plate against the Cubs with the fans like that and do what he did.
"He's struggled at the plate since we called him up, but he got a big hit for us. Last week he got a couple big hits for us, and today could be the biggest hit of his career so far."