In Prairie Grove, Arkansas today (June 7), beginning at approximately 6:10 p.m., just about every television set in town will be tuned to ESPN for the Boston Red Sox game taking place in Bean Town Thursday night.
In fact, we’d bet that Razorback fans all over the state will have an increased interest in that particular American League matchup this evening.
That’s because former Razorback and one-time Prairie Grove Tiger Jalen Beeks will be making his first appearance in the big leagues, when the Sox take on the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.
The 24 year old left-hander got the call up earlier this week, and will make his first Major League start exactly 4 years to the day when he was drafted in the 12th round to play for the Sox.
Beeks starred for Prairie Grove, before moving on to Crowder College for a year in southern Missouri. His pitching at that community college caught the attention of Razorback head coach Dave Van Horn, and he enrolled at Arkansas in 2012.
Beeks quickly became one of Van Horn’s most trusted arms at Arkansas, first out of the bullpen as a sophomore, and eventually as a starter in the regular weekend rotation for the Hogs. He finished his career at Arkansas with a 12-6 record, including a 6-4 record and 1.98 earned run average in his final season with the Hogs as a junior.
As a starter for the Triple A Pawtucket Red Sox this season, Beeks has started 10 games, and is 3-3 with a 2.56 ERA and 80 strikeouts.
The excitement in his hometown for Beeks’ big break is palpable.
The marque on Frederick’s One Stop convenience store near the center of town has been updated this week to alert the city of Beeks’ big league debut. “Watch hometown boy Jalen Beeks on ESPN Thursday at 6,” the sign reads.
A picture of the sign has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook, with each share offering encouragement for the hometown hero.
Prairie Grove resident Skyler Branch posted, “Can’t miss this! Nothing better than a small hometown kid accomplishing his dreams! Way to go Jalen Beeks!”
“I love our town and the support we give each other. I can’t wait to watch Jalen Beeks tomorrow,” reads another post by Prairie Grove resident Mallory Mounce.
In addition to all the support from back home, Beeks’ wife, two daughters, parents, grandparents, and “about 15 others” will be in attendance at Fenway Park tonight to watch him pitch.
Beeks will have his work cut out for him Thursday night, as he faces a Tigers team that leads the league in batting average, and boasts the fewest strikouts in the league.
Fellow former Hog Andrew Benintendi, who also currently plays for the Red Sox, however, thinks his former teammate will do just fine.
“He’s done extremely well obviously through the minor leagues,” Benintendi told MassLive this week. “I only faced him one time in college. And if I was using a wood bat I would have shattered it. He’s gross. He’s got good stuff. He’s got a lot of strikeouts and he keeps hitters off balance. So I’m extremely excited to see him tomorrow.”