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Squirrels' opening-night starter Tristan Beck had fraternal edge during pandemic
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Squirrels' opening-night starter Tristan Beck had fraternal edge during pandemic

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The Flying Squirrels open on May 4. To mark the day, Gov. Northam plays catch

Tristan Beck gets the opening-night start for the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Tuesday against Hartford. Wondering what he did when minor league baseball shut down last year? Same thing he has done for as long as he can remember. Beck played catch with his younger brother.

Brendan Beck is a senior right-hander at Stanford, where Tristan Beck, also a right-hander, pitched from 2016 to ’18. The Becks in 2018 were teammates. In some ways, that again was the case during the pandemic.

The fraternal advantages started with “just having a throwing partner, a lifting partner,” said Tristan Beck, a 24-year-old Californian.

“We’ve been playing together all our lives. That’s always been a big part of our game, talking to each other about things, working on things together.”

Atlanta drafted Tristan Beck in the fourth round in 2018, and he joined the San Francisco organization in July of 2019 as part of the deal that sent Mark Melancon to the Braves. Brendan Beck, currently 5-0 with a 3.62 ERA at Stanford, is projected as a selection in July’s MLB draft.

According to Richmond manager Jose Alguacil, the Giants determined that Beck would throw the Flying Squirrels’ first pitch this season.

“I have big confidence in this guy,” said Alguacil, 48 and Richmond’s manager in 2015 (72-68). He subsequently spent three years as the Giants’ first-base coach. Alguacil said he believes pitching will be this team’s strength.

All opening nights bring fresh vitality, but this one will be extra special because of the absence of minor league baseball in 2020, Beck noted.

The Flying Squirrels have not played since a 7-1 win over visiting Bowie on Sept. 2, 2019.

“I think it’s been over 600 days since the last game here in Richmond. I’ve never been here with the Squirrels before, but I’ve heard stories, even in my time before being [in the Giants organization], how much energy there is, how much it means to the community,” Beck said.

“I’m really excited to get to experience that first-hand.”

The Diamond seats 9,560. Capacity through the first homestand, which extends through Sunday, will be limited to 2,943 by Virginia and Major League Baseball COVID-19 guidelines.

Beck and the Flying Squirrels’ other pitchers will not operate in as forgiving a ballpark as their predecessors. Following the 2019 season, the Giants requested that The Diamond’s power alleys be shortened. Since the stadium opened for the 1985 season, Richmond Braves and Richmond Flying Squirrels hitters have regularly been frustrated by the role the deep gaps (389 in right-center and 388 in left-center) played in holding down home runs.

The Giants, whose Double-A team arrived here in 2010, began to see things the same way. Down-the-line distances of 330 stayed the same, but each of the power alleys is shorter by about 10 feet.

According to Alguacil, the Giants re-emphasized their commitment to developing players drafted by San Francisco, which was the path to World Series championships for the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014. That big league achievement occurred after minor league success.

“I mentioned this to the guys from the beginning. I want to win this year. It’s a mentality that we set up from day one in spring training,” Alguacil said. “In the Giants organization, we want to create a winning mentality, and that’s what we’re going to bring this year.”

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