Chris Bec made 23 starts behind the plate for the Vancouver Canadians in 2018.
2018 Vancouver Canadians catcher Chris Bec steps up to the plate and behind the plate in the latest edition of C’s Chat.
If you go by the saying ‘game recognizing game’, the 5-foot-11 Bec could have a promising future in professional baseball. The Miami native was an outfielder and shortstop at Coral Springs Christian Academy but his move behind the plate was the result of some encouragement by a Hall of Famer.
“I got a recommendation by Pudge Rodriguez out of high school. I was a shortstop my senior year. He told me, ‘Hey, I think you could be a pretty good catcher.’ I was in a workout for the Texas Rangers and he invited me over to the bullpen. I had to catch a couple of bullpens, it was terrible! I almost broke my thumb like 10 times. It was tough.”
Despite the rough beginning, Bec began to enjoy life behind the dish and the responsibility that comes with it.
“Basically, (it’s) the amount of control that you have. It’s the only position that everyone is looking at you. Basically, I can cover the pace of the game just by throwing the ball back to the pitcher and getting set and getting this game going or slowing it down if necessary. I just like the amount of control that you can have in the game.”
Chris Bec drew a walk in just over 14 percent of his plate appearances with the C’s.
Rated among the Top 300 high schoolers in the USA by Perfect Game in 2014, Bec went to Miami Dade College for two years before transferring to the University of Maine. It was during those years that Bec began learning his craft with the catching gear.
“I started catching part-time freshman year and sophomore year in junior college. It was on and off still and then my junior year (at Maine), it was my first full year catching and then senior year was my second. I’m still on my second year (full-time) catching. One thing I have in this game is that I understand the game pretty well and I know what pitches to call and how to handle a staff and I think that’s my edge.”
Bec ended his two-year tenure with Miami Dade by earning 2016 FCSAA All-Southern Conference First Team Honors after slashing .396/.457/.513. Joining Bec as a First Team All-Star was his Sharks teammate Santiago Espinal, who was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays in the deal that sent Steve Pearce to Boston.
The 2017 season saw Bec leave the junior college ranks to transfer to the University of Maine. He batted .340 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .891 in his junior year.
Heading into 2018, Bec made the Johnny Bench Award Watch List as a contender for top college catcher honours. He proved worthy of that honour by tapping into more power in his senior year with the Black Bears, increasing his home run total from one to eight and slugging. 539, an increase of 74 points from his junior season. That earned him a spot on the America East First-Team All Star squad and the All-Tournament team.
Looking back on his time in college, Bec said he learned a lot from his coaches at Miami Dade and Maine.
“I had two really good head coaches in junior college, Danny Price, and in Maine, Nick Derba. They’re great baseball minds. They just teach you the little things in this game and it’s the little details that separate you.”
Vancouver Canadians catcher Chris Bec – chatting with lefthander Marcus Reyes – hit all three of his home runs at Nat Bailey Stadium.
The Toronto Blue Jays decided to take Bec with its 5th round pick of the 2018. Steve Ewen of The Vancouver Province pointed out that Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim was familiar with Bec when he was a scout with the Texas Rangers. It was in a batting cage when Bec found out he was drafted by Toronto.
“I was actually hitting with my hitting instructor back home. I had a pretty good idea I was going to go from the fifth to eighth round but you just never know with this thing. I was just hitting, trying to stay away from it.
I got a call from our Blue Jays scout Pete Holmes. He said I had a really good shot of going in the fifth round so just stay tuned. I said, ‘Alright. I’m in.’ Sure enough, he came through for me. He believed in me and this organization believed in me and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
As a senior sign, Bec did not have a lot of leverage in negotiations but he did receive a $5,000 bonus before reporting to Dunedin to begin his pro career. One thing Bec appreciated was the higher level of coaching at the professional level in Dunedin and Vancouver.
“It was great. Professional instruction is amazing. We got a really good group of guys, good instructors and good teachers for us. It’s amazing how much you can learn in this game, especially in this two months that I’ve been here (in Vancouver). I learned a lot more than I did in three years of college. It’s awesome, it’s been a great experience.”
Bec touched on some of the lessons he learned during his first pro season.
“The thing I learned the most is just stay humble. Play for the team, not more for yourself. Worry about the process, not so much about the result. Just have a good, strong, positive mindset because this game is all about failure and it’s about how you deal with it. That’s really what pro ball has taught me.”
Chris Bec strung together an on-base streak of 16 games that included hits in 11 straight.
Bec collected his first two hits and his first stolen base in his second professional game to help the C’s collect their first win of 2018 in Eugene June 17. That game was the start of three two-hit games in a row and he had a three-hit effort that included two doubles and three runs batted in June 23 in Spokane.
Bec would find himself in a slump that covered the latter part of June and a good chunk of July before heating up with a .304 batting average in August. He took the long view when it came to dealing with his struggles.
“Just staying within myself. Just trusting the process. This game is a game of failure. You’re going to fail. You’re going to have your slumps. It’s about how fast you get out of it and you shorten it. That’s basically it. I just stayed within myself. I didn’t try to do too much. I didn’t try to push my average up. I just tried to play the game and let it play out at the end of the season, it’ll show.”
Among the highlights was a 2-for-3 game with a home run, a walk, three RBI and a stolen base against Spokane August 18.
It’s been said that speed never slumps and that was definitely the case for Bec in 2018. He stole 16 bases without getting caught during his senior season in Maine and duplicated that feat with the C’s with another 16 swipes. Bec says he does a lot of preparation to be successful on the basepaths.
“Stealing bases, that’s what I do. I don’t really rely on so much on my speed but I rely on just looking at the pitcher and watching his times and watching his moves from the dugout and carrying it over to the game.”
One thing Bec had to deal with was batting at least once in every spot of the order except ninth, including six times in the leadoff spot. Bec feels he’s pretty flexible with wherever he is in the batting order.
“I’m pretty versatile when it comes to that. I just carry on my at-bat like normal just as if I was hitting in the three-hole or the four-hole. It doesn’t really matter. You just got to carry on and notice the situation you’re in and try to do what’s best for the team.”
Another challenge Bec had to deal with in Vancouver was the number of catchers vying for playing time with Reilly Johnson, Yorman Rodriguez, Owen Spiwak, Brett Wright and Brandon Polizzi (for one inning) in the mix. Bec took that challenge in stride.
“We work with each other. We give our opinions and that’s all it’s about. Catching – it’s tough, especially when you play every single day. You got to get good things from each other and help each other out and that’s what we’ve been doing all year.”
The importance of getting down a routine comes into play when entering professional baseball. Bec goes into how he gets ready for an evening game at Nat Bailey Stadium.
“I come to the field at 1:00, have the pitchers meeting at 2:00. We go over our last game and with all the other catchers, we talk about our game plan for the following game. I’ll tell the pitchers something that we saw something good or bad. We come out and practice, do some blocking, do some receiving and throw to the bases and go ahead and hit. Then after that, I’ll be out on the field about 45 minutes before the game starts. Go warm up with the pitcher. Go get my stretching in. Just do some dry work and then go ahead and throw with the pitcher and get ready for the game.”
Bec said he really enjoyed playing at Nat Bailey in 2018.
“Oh, it’s great. The atmosphere here – it’s amazing. I’ve never been a part of something like this. It’s one heck of a turnaround from coming from Maine and playing in 30-degree weather with 10 fans. At the end of the day, it’s baseball. Once I’m on the field, I don’t really notice too much but it is amazing to have a crowd that’s always backing you up and celebrating with you, it’s awesome.”
The one person who always backs up Bec is his mother. In his player profile page at Miami Dade, Bec’s dreams are to “tell my mom she has no need to work anymore, I got it” and to “support my family”.
Bec is expected to take the next step in his career with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2019. If all goes well, he could return to his home state with a promotion to Dunedin before the year is out.
My thanks again to Chris Bec for this episode of C’s Chat and to Sharlene Canning for arranging the interview.