Ziomek's improvement, according to Corbin, comes down to his ability to "control his mind and control his heartbeat" when things start to go south. "In the middle innings, if he walks a guy or gives up an error, he can pitch through it," says Corbin. "Before, turning his body sideways because he was in the stretch would create havoc mentally for him." Indeed, while Ziomek was prone to giving up the big inning last year, he has allowed more than two runs in just one of his 802/3 innings, when he gave up a three-run homer in a loss to Florida.
Beede arrived in Nashville more of a finished product. "He and Mikey Minor are the two kids I can remember who came in here with the skill to throw an off-speed pitch consistently," says Corbin, who likes young pitchers from the Northeast and Northwest in part because they have fewer innings on them than those from California, Texas and Florida. "I don't think there are a lot of kids who come with a feel and awareness of a changeup."
If anything, Beede was a little too aware. "Tyler is like a mad scientist," says Brown. "Everything he hears, he wants to [try]. He's got a really good mind, so sometimes he'd influx it with some stuff that got him away from keeping things simple."
But, as Corbin suggested, campus life helped Beede on the field. "I came into school not being too high on academics, and I've really immersed myself," says Beede, an organizational management major. "It's funny—when you tap into something like academics, the baseball side of it gets a little easier." He developed a two-seamer so he can move his fastball in both directions. The pitch also has rotation similar to his changeup, which makes the off-speed pitch even more tricky to pick up.
Beede's success and growth go a long way toward justifying his decision to reject the Blue Jays' offer. But Toronto fans who think he has an unhealthy obsession with money—and there appear to be plenty who think that way—are missing the point. Beede and two friends recently set up a nonprofit company called More Than Me, which encourages professional athletes from Massachusetts to give back to their local communities. ("Tyler's kind of an old soul," says Corbin.)
When he's not running the company or pitching, Beede finds time to write and record music. "I used to be a really shy kid—that's the way I got things off my mind, putting it on paper," he says. "I'm not really talented, but I try to put out a good message." In a few months he'll have a chance to hit up Ziomek on behalf of More Than Me, and next summer he'll be in position to make a hefty donation himself.
Where will that leave the Commodores? Still fairly stacked. Asked if there are any young arms in the pipeline, Brown begins reciting names of relievers and midweek starters who could be weekend starters at most schools: freshmen Walker Buehler (3--1, 2.54 ERA) and Carson Fulmer (32 K's in 28 innings), sophomore Adam Ravenelle (another hard-throwing Massachusetts product).... It is a litany that is music to Corbin's ears.