Beebe wears the title well

East Lyme

He is "Mr. East Lyme." No, really. That's not just some nickname. He won the official competition last week at the high school.

And so if he went to the plate today in the Class L state baseball semifinals at Palmer Field, longtime public address announcer Jim Bransfield would be perfectly accurate forgoing "center fielder No. 2 Dean Beebe" with "your attention please, ladies and gentlemen Introducing Mr. East Lyme."

Except that anyone who knows Beebe knows he was Mr. East Lyme long before now, late in his senior year. The only thing that's at the high school more than Beebe is the parking lot. Three sports require a time commitment. Then there's the popularity factor. Never is heard a discouraging word about him. Indeed, this kid Beebe is a straight 'A.'

"A character guy," his coach, Jack Biggs, was saying about him. "One of those guys you want on your team. Always keeps people loose."

Which counts, you figure, in the baseball program this season. Looseness helps when every game finishes 3-2 either way and you are constantly suffering from what they call nerves. Maybe that's why the Vikings are still alive. They have Dean Beebe and nobody else does.

And to think he used to be one of them. You know. Them. Born in wait for it Waterford. Ewwww. The enemy. Moved across town lines just before the sixth grade.

"At first, I admit, I was upset," Beebe said. "When you're in Waterford, East Lyme is a terrible town and nobody likes you. I'm thinking, 'I don't want to go over there. I'll be the weird kid.' But Connor (teammate Connor Elliott) actually moved from there to East Lyme the year before me. I figured I could join him and it wouldn't be so bad."

Not that Beebe, whose blood is maroon for reasons other than that's the color of blood usually, doesn't think about The Road Not Taken. He's seen the recent successes of several different Waterford sports. It's not lost on him that but one guy on the baseball team has played on an ECC championship team: Austin Toback, also a swimmer.

"They win all the time," Beebe said of his old town. "Before the state tournament, I was thinking 'what if.' We would have had some really good teams over there in a lot of different sports. But I know I made right decision. There's something about East Lyme. It feels like home."

There's something else about East Lyme, too. Last baseball team around here standing.

And nobody really saw it coming after an 11-9 regular season.

"After the Plainfield loss (in the conference tournament semifinals), a couple of us were sitting around the dugout talking about the season. It was like 10 at night," Beebe said. "Someone said, it'd be crazy if we made it to Palmer Field.' Yeah. Good one. We're just going to wake up there? And now (today) we're there. Ridiculous.

"Ending senior year on a note like this would be crazy," he said. "We had some adversity in basketball. We've had some in football, junior year. We've always waited for that one thing to break. We have talent here. It was a matter of time before something like this happened."

Beebe's last few days would have made coffee tired. State quarterfinal baseball game in Manchester, senior prom, Mr. East Lyme competition. Beebe's talent for the competition: playing the guitar. Self taught. He said it stems from some guilt over having a guitar as a little kid that was good at gathering dust.

"We were singing to (singer-songwriter) James Blunt on the way to Six Flags on our Physics trip," Beebe said. "Our teacher said we should do that for the talent show. We (Beebe and guitar partner Nate Lanati) realized we could play that. So we did."

Another example of something else Biggs said of him: "He walks the walk, too."

The People's Republic of East Lyme should be a happier place knowing this is the kind of kid they are turning out. Guitarist, leader, outfielder. Mr. East Lyme.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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