Transfer builds trust with teammates


Justin Brown

Junior Hunter Beetley poses for a portrait Wednesday afternoon at Coaches Stadium. Beetley has split time this season at first base with Matt Dunavant. In 10 starts Beetley has 7 hits, 7 runs scored and knocked in 4 runs for the Panthers.

Maria Baldwin, Feature Writer

Junior transfer Hunter Beetley knows the importance of a trusting relationship with his teammates, especially as their first baseman. 

“I started playing first base fairly young, but also switched to many different positions. I mainly focused to first base my junior year of high school. At that position, you are the backbone of the infield. if somebody makes a great play, but something happens on the throw, your team counts on you to pick them up,” Beetley said. “There’s a lot of trust between position players. I want my teammates to know that I have their back,” Beetley said.

Building trust with your teammates is difficult at first when you are a transfer, but the trust is created when you spend time with your teammates.

“Just hanging out with your teammates builds team chemistry. Hanging out, playing video games, even going to our locker room to play ping-pong,” Beetley said. “We spend a lot of time in our locker room after it was redone last year, and they added a ping pong table, so we would have tournaments in there on Saturdays.”

Sophomore infielder and outfielder Dane Toppel said that building trust and chemistry with Beetley not only happens during free-time, but during practice.

“We build trust from repetitions in practice. Working together every day and competing for the same goals helps both of us go in the right direction,” Toppel said. “Having a good relationship with your first baseman makes a big difference. I trust that he is going to pick me up if I make a bad throw, and that can change the game,” Toppel said. 

Coach Jason Anderson reflected on the Beetley’s potential as a versatile player.

“He’s a great asset to the team, he’s a left-handed bat that offers some pop and always brings a good attitude and energy to the field every day,” Anderson said. “I expect him and most of our hitters to continue to get better and gain confidence over the rest of the season as we get into conference and start to play more home games.  He has a lot of potential with his power,” Anderson said.

Attracted to Eastern by its friendly atmosphere, Beetley joined the Panthers as a transfer from Kaskaskia Junior College. Beetley made only one error in 392 total chances for a fielding percentage of .997 and hit .335 for the season with 13 doubles and 34 RBI’s.

“It’s a lot different of a game, I thought there was a lot of talent at the junior college level, and I figured DI shouldn’t be any different, but it was a different level of baseball entirely,” Beetley said. “I thought, the level shouldn’t be anything new. But it was a big jump.” 

The big jump to Division I found Beetley in a rough spot in the beginning of the season, but now he said he is growing accustomed to the level, with the help of his coaches and the trust and chemistry he has built with his teammates.

“Before conference play, I went through a slump early on in the season. The coaches have been working with me on that, and the first conference weekend I came out with an at-bat and hit a home run, so I’m taking the right steps to get me to where they want me to be for conference,” Beetley said. “Playing big schools in the beginning of the season is fun, but they are our pre-season pump-up games to get ready for the OVC, which is where we want to have all of our success,” Beetley said.

Coach Anderson said Beetley has sruggled, but now that he has gotten some experience playing bigger schools, he is ready for success in conference play.

“He’s had a slow start adjusting to a new level of baseball and seeing some very quality arms to start the season, and he continues to improve and is starting to do some nice things on the field with his adjustments,” Anderson said.

Besides creating the chemistry and building the trust with his teammates, Beetley said he just needs to relax and enjoy the game he has played for all of these years.

“A lot of what I’ve been working on is staying comfortable. Coach always reminds me to just take a breath, and to not get too worked up and angst out. ‘Whatever it is, stay calm, you’ve played your whole life, and to just play the game that I know,’” Beetley said.

Maria Baldwin can be reached at 582-2812 or [email protected]