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Beck Wheeler’s journey to becoming a professional baseball player almost never happened due to an accident he suffered after his high school graduation.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, the 6’3” 210 pound Cyclones reliever enjoyed his time by the beach doing various activities such as wakeboarding and hanging with his friends. Wheeler planned on attending Pacific University, where he would play shortstop but on July 9, 2007, a near fatal accident put his promising baseball future in jeopardy.

On that Saturday, Wheeler and a few of his friends were wakeboarding and enjoying the day on his friend’s boat. There was a radio on the boat and everyone on board was talking when Wheeler decided he wanted to hop into the water. After a few minutes Wheeler’s friend – the driver of the boat – put the gear in reverse and didn’t hear Wheeler yelling that he was in the water right behind the boat. With the volume of the music and the noise coming from the boat Wheeler’s voice was drowned out as the boat started going in reverse, running over Wheeler in the process.

The engine cut-up Wheeler’s legs causing eight lacerations, a torn hamstring, and requiring 84 staples to stitch his legs back together. An ambulance was immediately called and the EMTs rushed Wheeler to the hospital. Although he was in agonizing pain, at no point did Wheeler pass out. This would only be the beginning though because now the recovery would start.

After a full week at the hospital, Wheeler was sent home, but wasn’t able to walk for one month. It wasn’t until a year later that he was fully recovered. Wheeler now has scars on his right shin, right knee, right calf, left hamstring, and lower left leg. But if you were to watch him on the baseball field today, you would never think something like this could have happened to him.

After transferring to Orange Coast College following his freshman year at Pacific, Wheeler played shortstop for a year before transferring yet again. This time Wheeler ended up at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB). During his junior season Wheeler played shortstop and batted .300, which he still boasts about. His senior season he played shortstop and pitched minimally. Through four years of college baseball, Wheeler only pitched four innings. The only reason he even pitched in college at all was because his coach mentioned the bullpen needed another arm and Wheeler volunteered his services.

Wheeler’s coach at UCSB knew one of the scouts for the Mets, and the scout visited the university to watch all the seniors throw a bullpen session. Wheeler stepped to the mound and impressed the scout so much that he remained on the scout’s radar.

Although the Mets did not draft Wheeler, he was signed the next day as a non-drafted free agent. In his first year as a pitcher, Wheeler dominated the Gulf Coast League. In 20.2 innings, he gave up only eight hits and two earned runs, while striking out 20 batters. He finished the year with a 0.87 ERA. Although he has struggled during the early part of this season, expect big things from this battle-tested pitcher.

-Julian Rifkind

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