ST. PETERSBURG — Tim Beckham had 6.15-million reasons to be happy Thursday, having just signed with the Rays for a life-altering and draft record bonus.
But with the contract finalized, his heart again beating properly after seeing his No. 3 jersey hanging in the locker next to B.J. Upton and the jitters of his first batting practice and ceremonial first pitch out of the way, the top overall pick was most excited about getting down to business on the field.
"I'm ready to just play," said Beckham, a shortstop from Griffin (Ga.) High. "Get all the business side out of the way and do what I love to do."
Beckham and the Rays said after the June 5 draft it was a priority to get a deal done so he could start playing, and both sides may have given a bit financially to get it done so he can get in about 60 games.
"We could have waited until Aug. 15 (the signing deadline) and seen how it played out, but for both sides it was very valuable to get him out playing," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "So we were very aggressive in terms of how we negotiated. … We think those first two months of professional baseball experience are worth a lot more than two months, so it was incredibly important to us."
Beckham's bonus, just larger than the $6.1-million Justin Upton got from Arizona in 2005, will be spread over five years; he'll get $1-million up front.
Beckham, 18, will report Sunday to the Princeton (W.Va.) rookie-league team, where he will join his older brother, Jeremy, a 17th-round pick — It's very special," Tim said — then spend the fall in the Instructional League.
He wasn't quite as bold Thursday as he was draft day in saying he hoped to make the majors in two to three years, but flashed his confidence by saying he compared himself to B.J. Upton and was glad to see the Rays doing well "and once I get here hopefully we can win the World Series."
As much as the Rays like Beckham's playing ability, they also invested in his personality.
His mother, Ella, raved about how he has matured into a young man. His father, Jimmy, told him it was time to go to work.
"He's kind of had this air about him that he feels like he can compete at any level," Jimmy said. "I guess having two older brothers, you've either got the nerve to do it or you don't. … This level here doesn't intimidate him."