"This is what I've been wishing for my whole life; this is like a dream come true," said Beckham, who said he was happy to have the deal done. "... Oh yeah, more than happy, just play, get all the business out of the way and do what I want to do. ... This is what I love to do."
"We are thrilled to add an athlete of Tim's talent and character to our organization," said Andrew Friedman, Rays executive vice president of baseball operations. "That we were able to conclude the signing process just two weeks after the Draft is a testament both to the relationship that our scouting staff formed with Tim and his family, and of course, to Tim's enthusiasm for the game. He has true five-tool potential, and we look forward to helping him develop his unique abilities."
Baseball America ranked Beckham as the No. 1 high school prospect in the country entering the Draft. The right-handed hitter batted .482 (53-for-110) with six home runs, 13 doubles, 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 23 steals in his senior season, leading Griffin (Ga.) High School to the Region 4-AAAA championship and to its first state championship series since 1981.
Friedman said the Rays attached a lot of importance to quickly signing Beckham.
"Our thing was, we could have waited until Aug. 15 and seen how it played out, but for both sides, it was very valuable to get him out playing," Friedman said. "So we were very aggressive in terms of how we negotiated, because of how much value we see in getting him out.
"To some people, it just sounds like two months, but we think those first two months of professional baseball experience are worth a lot more than two months. So, it was incredibly important to us to get a deal done."
Beckham's agent, Greg Genske, agreed with Friedman on the importance of signing early.
"It was certainly a priority from both sides to see if we could work out a deal quickly," Genske said. "The Rays knew what kind of talent Tim was, and it was certainly important to them to get him out and beginning his pro career."
The Rays also drafted Tim's oldest brother, Jeremy Beckham, an infielder out of Georgia Southern University, in the 17th round. Jeremy signed with the Rays on June 10 and is currently playing for Princeton.
"It's very special," said Tim about the prospect of being teammates with his brother. "He's a big inspiration in my life."
Beckham walked into the Rays' clubhouse to see a Rays jersey with No. 3 on the back underneath his name. When asked his reaction to seeing the jersey hanging in the locker next to B.J. Upton's, Beckham offered an innocent smile: "Sweet."
Ironically, Upton has been the Rays player Beckham has been most compared to when assessing his abilities.
"I think it's a good comparison," said Beckham when asked about the comparison. "He's a really good athlete. I think I'm a pretty good athlete."
Now comes the hard part for Beckham, dealing with being away from home for the first time and having a job while refining his baseball talents -- as an instant millionaire.
Beckham's father, Jimmy, was on hand with his wife, Ella, and their other son, Steven, and he believes Tim is equipped to handle his new life.
"We think he can," Jimmy said. "He kind of has this air about him, where he feels like he can compete at any level. ... You either have the nerve to do it or you don't, and he's always felt like he could compete on any level. And this level here doesn't intimidate him. He feels comfortable at this level."
Tim had a good start Thursday, referencing the best advice he's received -- to remain humble -- while indicating that he understood the bus rides and Minor League life that awaits him in Princeton.
"I just wanted to get out and play," Tim said. "The quicker I get to the big leagues, the happier I am. ... Getting to the big leagues is a big goal of mine. The Minor Leagues is just another obstacle I have to overcome."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less