Former Elk County resident reflects on Major League career

Photo submitted by Joe Beimel
Nate Steis
Special to The Daily Press 

Trivia time in the Steis’ Summer Sports Series: Name the former professional athlete from District Nine who was ranked third in the state in wrestling, won a district championship in basketball in 1995, gave up the final home run of Tony Gwynn’s career, got a win for the Pirates without recording a pitch, and gave up just one hit against Barry Bonds in 18 at bats.
Many may be stumped, but others may remember Kersey native, and St. Marys Area High School graduate, Joe Beimel for many of these facts and statistics.
Many know Beimel for his pitching ability and his 13-year career in Major League Baseball, and rightfully so. However, what they often fail to acknowledge is that he is an all-around athlete.
Beimel lettered in four sports during his high school career: baseball, basketball, football, and wrestling. Participating in both basketball and wrestling is unique to athletes in this area. Beimel began his wrestling career at the age of four and stopped at 17.
Beimel was ranked third in the state in wrestling at 171, but heading into his senior year, he elected to try something new by joining the varsity basketball team at St. Marys Area High School.
“I played a lot of basketball in the summer months with my friends,” he said. “I really enjoyed the game, and I always wondered what it was like to play. I knew I had a career in baseball and not wrestling, so I decided to branch out and give something else a try while I had the opportunity to do so. Playing basketball was a great decision because I was on a District Championship team, and I contributed to that team. It was a lot of fun.”
Though his basketball career ended in high school, Beimel’s athletic career was far from over.
He graduated high school in 1995 and enrolled at the Allegany College of Maryland, where former big leaguer, and current commentator, John Kruk, played college ball.
“Allegany was a great fit for me early because junior college allows you to enter the draft after one year of college ball, unlike the NCAA which only allows you to enter after three,” Beimel said.
He was drafted after his freshman season at Allegany by the Texas Rangers but decided to stay in school and return for his sophomore year. Then, he decided to transfer to a school that was familiar to his family, Duquesne.
Joe’s cousin, Mike Beimel, who is one of the best instructors and baseball minds the area has ever seen, was a standout player at Duquesne and received all Atlantic 10 honors during his playing career. “I believe Mike was put on this earth to teach kids the game of baseball the right way,” Beimel said. “He truly has a gift. His patience with kids and his passion and love for baseball is remarkable.”
Mike’s business, Beimel Baseball in St. Marys, has been a help in Joe’s post-Major League Baseball career, he said.
Joe is the founder of Beimel Elite Athletics in El Segundo, California. His baseball academy focuses on professional arm care, pitching mechanics, baseball performance training, and velocity increase for pitchers. Beimel helps high school, college, and professional pitchers improve their game. And though his career in the big leagues has concluded, this has not stopped Beimel from playing the game he loves.
This weekend, Beimel played in the Bluegrass World Series in Louisville, Kentucky, and the tournament featured a number of former MLB players. He hit 92 and 93 mph on the radar gun during his appearances at 41 years old.
Beimel was also a member of 10 Major League organizations and seven Big League ball clubs.
“Baseball has given me numerous opportunities that I would not have had,” Beimel said, referencing how baseball changed his life. “I have been in some of the biggest cities and some of the smallest towns in the United States. I have met some of my best friends for life playing this game. Baseball has also taught me to be humble, confident, and as consistent as possible.”
If he had to pick a few stadiums that were his favorite, he said he would pick Wrigley Field, PNC Park, and Dodgers Stadium.
“Wrigley was my favorite atmosphere and I enjoyed the day games,” he said. “PNC Park is the most beautiful ballpark in Major League Baseball, and I loved Dodger Stadium because this is where I played in some of my biggest and favorite ball games over my career.”
Beimel is now the father of three kids Drew, Claire, and Grayson. His oldest son, Drew, is a volleyball player at Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts. Drew was born in 1997, and, to commemorate the birth of his son, Beimel said he decided to wear the number 97 during much of his playing career. Beimel is the only player in MLB history to wear that number.
The past 20 years have been quite the journey for Beimel. From playing 13 MLB seasons and starting a business, to having three kids and traveling the country, he has never forgotten where he came from. His father, Ron, and mother, Marge, still reside in Elk County and remain two of the biggest baseball fans in this area. And though Beimel is a California resident now, he will be sure to tell everyone he is a Pennsylvania kid.