Blessed is a word former Grand County High standout Arnie Beyeler uses often when describing his life. The most recent example occurred in January, when – out of baseball after 36 years and with few options to consider – the Baltimore Orioles called out of the blue and offered him a job coaching first base.
“I thought they were calling about a manager’s job in the minors. Triple A,” said Beyeler in an interview Friday, Feb. 1. “I had no idea they were going to offer me that. I’ve been blessed like that in my career.”
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Beyeler was a shortstop in high school and the American Legion League, where he starred for a Grand Junction team after high school.
His folks had split up and he moved in with his father, who had opened a veterinary clinic in Fruita. Beyeler was later a utility infielder in college and for six years he toiled in Major League Baseball’s minor leagues before embarking on second, third and fourth careers as a scout, coach and manager.
He graduated from Grand County High in 1982 and he doesn’t get back to his hometown as much as he’d like, but Beyeler is a humble man who hasn’t forgotten the folks in Moab who helped guide his life’s path.
That includes men such as Mike Steele, Beyeler’s high school assistant coach. “Mike could have played. He was one of the best players to ever come out of that area, but he married Janet and had a family and that worked out pretty well for him. He really helped me.”
Larry Key was also cited as one of Beyeler’s heroes, as was Dutch Zimmerman. He also mentioned several friends he grew up with, and lamented the fact he rarely gets back to Moab. “A lot of those guys, though, a whole lot of those guys aren’t around there anymore. They all had to leave unless they work in tourism.”
And while not a tourist, Beyeler has spent plenty a night in a strange city, living out of a suitcase in motels and hotels across the country.
As a player, Beyeler was a Communications major at Wichita State University in Kansas after spending a year at tiny Lamar Junior College in Lamar, Colorado. After college, he played in the Detroit Tigers farm system, batting .254 over 584 games. He stole 69 bases between 1986-1991. The closest he got to the Bigs as a player was during the dozens of games played with the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens in ’91.
“I went to scouting school,” he said. “I had become kind of an older guy in Triple A.” He scouted for the Tigers based in Florida from 1992-96. From there he joined the New York Yankees organization, coaching infield and hitting for the Yankees’ Double A affiliate Norwich Navigators and Tripe A Columbus Clippers, from 1997-99.
He won a World Series ring when the Yankees won the championship in 1997 – but George Steinbrenner ordered he not get a ring when they won again in 1999 – after Beyeler had taken a job with the hated Boston Red Sox, for whom he moved up to manager of the Lowell Spinners from 2000-01 and the Augusta GreenJackets in 2002. “That one kind of stung, but the Yankees were always very good to me, other than that,” he said.
Beyeler moved to the Texas Rangers organization the following year and managed the Stockton Ports and Bakersfield Blaze through 2006 before moving to the San Diego Padres’ Double A affiliate Mobile BayBears. He returned to the Red Sox in 2007 and coached first base for the team when it won the World Series and Beyeler earned his second championship ring, as well as an All-Star Game ring the following year. He left the Red Sox in 2015 and spent 2016-18 in the minors.
To use a baseball term, Beyeler balked, understandably, when asked to reveal which player he most admired throughout his lifetime in baseball, saying there were too many to list and at any rate he’s not interested in ranking them, but then he mentioned that 2013 Red Sox team, which was stacked with great pitchers – Jon Lester, John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and Clay Bucholz, who went 12-1, and clutch hitters, such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli.
But it is David Ortiz who Beyeler holds in the highest regard, and not just for the 103 RBIs Ortiz had as a designated hitter that championship season.
“David Ortiz was a pretty special player,” said Beyeler. “He was the 2013 MVP and he’s one of those larger than life individuals who is a special player and an even more special human being.”
Beyeler said he has made a good living “doing what I love. It’s been fantastic to do this for my whole life.” He said chasing money is fine, but he said he has learned doing what one loves is better. He has a daughter who is a professional dancer in Chicago. She’s not getting rich, but he said she’s happy and, perhaps just as important, she’s satisfied with where she is.
Beyeler won’t have to drive too far before he, too, is happy and satisfied with where he is: Sarasota, Florida, where the Orioles’ pitchers and catchers will arrive for spring training on Tuesday, Feb. 12. He’ll celebrate his 55th birthday the next day. Position players report Feb. 18 and the preseason games begin Feb. 24.
“We’ll play about 30 games and then opening day is at the end of March at Yankee Stadium,” he said, the same venue, coincidentally, where the Red Sox opened the 2013 season.
“I know I’ve been really blessed,” said Beyeler. “But I also know I owe a lot of people for that and quite a few of them are from Moab.”