CHICAGO -- When White Sox reliever Chris Beck first transferred to Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Ga., in the ninth grade, he didn't think baseball was a big part of his future.For one, he thought his new coach didn't care for him at all."He was kind of on me from
CHICAGO -- When White Sox reliever Chris Beck first transferred to Jefferson High School in Jefferson, Ga., in the ninth grade, he didn't think baseball was a big part of his future.
For one, he thought his new coach didn't care for him at all.
"He was kind of on me from the beginning and I was, like, 'This guy hates me,'" Beck said.
Beck instead developed a connection and affection for Tommy Knight, his coach at Jefferson. As a coach and a mentor, Knight guided Beck's career to the point where he was even drafted out of high school in the 35th round. After going to Georgia State University, he was selected in the second round.
Knight will now have a permanent place in Beck's baseball career. For the inaugural MLB Players Weekend, Beck honored "Coach Knight" with a tribute patch on the sleeve of his jersey. It's the least that Beck (aka "Bubba" during Player's Weekend) could do.
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"As the years went on, he became kind of like a second dad to me," Beck said. "Honestly, I don't think I would have played college baseball if it wasn't for him, much less professional baseball. He taught me how to play the game, taught me how to respect the game. I was over at his house pretty much multiple times a week, I would say. He was pretty much family, and still is. He's a big part of my life."
White Sox catcher Kevan Smith is taking a different approach to Players Weekend. After his preferred nickname, "Ripper," was denied, Smith decided to pay tribute to his family and its history. Smith is going by "Szmydth," his family's original name when they arrived to the United States from Poland.
"It was just how my name was spelled before my grandparents came over from Poland and they switched it to Smith," he said. "I thought it would be cool to give the jersey to my dad.
"They wouldn't let me use 'Ripper.' I've had that name for probably six years now, more so with guys who I played with in the past, but it's trickled in to here. They told me I couldn't do my nickname, so they told me I could put whatever I want on it. It doesn't have to be a nickname. I thought, alright, I'll put how my last name used to be spelled."
White Sox center fielder Adam Engel's jersey is one he hopes will have more meaning years from now than it does when he wore it for the club's three-game series against the Tigers. Engel (aka "Clarke,") is honoring the name of his two-month-old daughter.
It's also an unintentional tribute to Superman's alter ego, Clark Kent. The comic book hero is alluded to in Engel's Twitter handle, @ManOfSteal_10 (as opposed to the "Man of Steel" moniker), and is also Engel's wife's favorite superhero.
"The more I think about it, the more I think it's going to be pretty cool," Engel said. "She's a little over two months old now, so when she gets older I think it would be cool to see her name on the jersey.
"It's funny how that worked out. My wife really liked the name Clarke, and Superman is one of her favorite comic book characters. It's funny how it all worked out."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.