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Joe Beimel on Throwing at Dunn, and His Beard

This was two weeks ago. (By Manuel Balce Ceneta - AP)

Joe Beimel was raised in Kersey, Pennsylvania, a small rural town of 3,000 people where all the menfolk grow hunting beards come November.

"So I'm growing mine now instead of waiting," he observed this week. "A lot of people where I live have mustaches and beards, so they're probably proud."

That, of course, is not the real reason Beimel has gone caveman in recent weeks. He just got lazy, and stopped shaving, and started pitching well. Meantime, the team began playing as well as it has played this year, and so he figured he'd stick with what was working. Now, though, with fans calling him Jesus and bloggers comparing him to Ogre, he's wound up with the longest beard of his life, just in time for the worst humidity D.C.'s managed to offer up this season.

"I feel like I'm wearing a ski mask out there it's so hot," said Beimel, who is considering shaving after the Red Sox leave town. "Not really a real bright idea to grow a beard here in the middle of the summer."

Of course, the beard also helps Beimel look the part as one of the wise old men of the bullpen, one of the crafty and mature veterans, though he doesn't see it quite in that way.

"I'm 18 at heart," he said. "I feel young, you know, I feel young inside. I don't feel like I'm 32."

Still, he has taken on the role of mentor, offering advice to the youngsters on game-planning and execution, on their approach and their mindset on the mound. He tells them to be aggressive, to pound the strike zone, not to try to be too perfect, not to dance around the edges. And he does so with the knowledge that when he was breaking in, seven or eight years ago, he was making all the same mistakes. In fact, he dipped into the Joe Beimel videotape library just this week, watching a few appearances from 2002, when he was throwing for the Pirates.

"And I just cringed," he told me. "It's just almost unbearable to watch."

But he got a good story out of it, at least. The reason he was watching old tape was to show Adam Dunn two games from that 2002 season. On June 15, facing the Reds, Beimel gave up a three-run homer to Dunn with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, leading to a 4-3 Reds win. That was what they watched first, together in the clubhouse.

"I told him he pimped it," Beimel recalled. Dunn denied the charge.

So then Beimel popped in another game. July 24. Beimel was starting. He retired the first two guys. Then he intentionally threw at Dunn on the first pitch. His aim was true.

"Right on the ribs/kidney/back, somewhere in that area," Beimel said. "Got him pretty good."

I wondered whether that was satisfying, for a pitcher to claim his piece of slugging flesh. Not really, Beimel said. After Dunn reached first, Austin Kearns singled, and Brandon Larson homered, and Beimel's kidney shot had given him three earned runs. Despite entering the bottom of the first with a 4-0 lead, Beimel wound up with a loss that dropped his record to 1-5.

"Didn't work out well for me," he noted with a straight face.

That's another benefit of maturity, at least in Beimel's case. Pimping your home runs, standing there and staring as they soar into the seats, remains against baseball's unwritten rules, but Beimel has moved on from worrying about the code.

"My views have changed," he said. "I'm just more relaxed and I don't really care about that stuff anymore. You now, I just like going out, playing the game and having fun. That stuff doesn't bother me anymore."

But he can still look back at plunking Dunn and laugh about it. So I asked whether the slugger retaliated this week upon watching that footage, whether he threw any blows in Beimel's direction. He did not.

"Well, I've got the beard," Beimel pointed out. "He's probably scared of me."

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 24, 2009; 5:53 PM ET
Categories:  Nats  
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Next: Etan Thomas on the Wiz, B. Haywood on Etan


Great stuff, Dan. Thanks.

Also, I don't think he should shave yet. At least wait until we're done with the AL East. ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 24, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Kearns got a hit? You know that was a long, long, long time ago.

Posted by: NFBLooser | June 24, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Growing a beard here in what Beimel calls "the middle of the summer"?

Son, just wait 'til August. This here in June is nothing to worry about.

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | June 24, 2009 10:28 PM | Report abuse

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