When Pedro Beato takes the mound for the World Team during the XM Satellite Radio Futures All-Star Game in San Francisco on July 8, many Baltimore Orioles fans will get their first look at the 21-year-old right-hander who is one of the top pitching prospects in the system.
New York Mets fans, meanwhile, will get a chance to see what might have been.
For almost a year, from the time the Mets called Beato's name in the 17th round of the 2005 Draft until the now-defunct draft-and-follow period ended on May 29, 2006, Mets fans were abuzz about the possibility of a "homegrown" pitcher, a kid who had moved to Queens before he entered his teens, someday donning the orange and blue.
But negotiations broke down as the signing deadline approached, and Beato went back into the draft. The Orioles wasted little time snatching him up in the supplemental first round with the 32nd pick overall.
Not surprisingly, they were ecstatic at their good fortune.
"He's the guy for me. I just love this kid and his ability. He has every quality the good ones have," raved Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan. "He has passion and is eager to learn. He's a special, special kid."
Beato quickly signed with Baltimore and got his pro career started in the New York-Penn League, where he was 3-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 57 innings for the Aberdeen IronBirds in '06, striking out 52 and holding batters to a .222 average.
Now pitching for the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Class A South Atlantic League, sporting a 3-4 record and 3.54 ERA in 17 starts, Beato's future couldn't be brighter.
It is a future that has strong roots in two places: New York City and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Beato's dad, Miguel, moved to the United States when Pedro was a pre-teen, getting a job in Queens and putting into motion preparations to bring over his wife, son and daughters as soon as possible.
Part of that plan was making sure that his son began taking English lessons immediately. The family was ultimately reunited in New York a month before Pedro's 13th birthday.
"It was exciting, because everybody in the Dominican talks about 'New York this, New York that,'" Beato recalled, adding that the excitement far outweighed any downside of moving to a new country at such an impressionable age.
His English lessons paid off, as he was able to place into a bilingual class in junior high school. And his extended family, with whom he was reunited as well in New York, also made sure that Pedro would become adept at his second language as quickly as possible, further easing his transition.
"My uncle told my cousins not to talk Spanish to me, so my words weren't always coming out right at first and people made fun of me. But the only way you learn is by making mistakes," he explained. "By my second year here, I was the poster child of my ESL class and I was very, very fortunate to get a scholarship to Xaverian High School, one of the top schools in New York."
Xaverian is in Brooklyn, so attending school there meant Beato had a pretty lengthy commute via subway from Queens every day, but it was worth it above and beyond academics. The school was also known for having one of the top prep baseball teams in the area, thanks in part to assistant coach Mel Zitter, who also skippered a premiere youth league club that counts among its alumni Manny Ramirez and the Lugo brothers, Julio and Ruddy.
Beato and his family discovered Zitter's Youth Service League team just before Miguel Beato was about to send Pedro back home to the Dominican to play summer ball.
Back in the Dominican, Beato had been a catcher, but felt he was growing out of the position and happily swapped sides of the battery when he came to America.
"It was my decision to start pitching, since by the time I was 13, I was already 6 feet tall, and wondered what I would look like back there behind the plate," said Beato, who is currently 6-foot-6. "But I played both ways for awhile. I didn't start pitching full time until I was almost ready for college."
Beato's promising high school career was derailed temporarily, however, when he blew out his elbow throwing a curveball in April of his sophomore year (2004). He underwent Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of his junior year.
Needless to say, it was a tough year for him, physically as he went through the rehab, and perhaps even more so, emotionally.
"I saw my friends out there playing every day and I was always at the field, doing absolutely nothing, but I was there," Beato recalled. "I'd look out and see them playing, and see the team struggling, and not being able to do anything, I was about to go crazy."
His coaches constantly reassured the teen that he'd be back, but when you're 15 or 16, "next year" might as well be "next lifetime."
His team won the league championship that year, dedicating their last game to Beato. And when his senior year rolled around, he was indeed back on the field with his friends.
Though it took some time for him to return to full strength and regain his mechanics, return he did. His repertoire at the time included five (he might argue six) pitches, notably a sinking fastball in the low-mid 90s, a nasty slider, a power curveball and a circle change.
And he knows now, in retrospect, that that tough year helped him in many ways.
"It taught me how to take care of myself, and how to become a better pitcher, because I'm more of a pitcher than a thrower now," he said. "My mechanics are much, much better."
When the 2005 draft rolled around, with Beato just a year removed from his surgery, teams were a little reluctant to roll the dice on him, despite the fact that many scouts thought he had front-line starter potential.
When the New York Mets called his name in the 17th round as a draft-and-follow pick, with plans to keep a close eye on him as he headed to St. Petersburg (Fla.) Junior College, local Mets fans who followed the amateur ranks were delighted.
Negotiations stayed pretty quiet for most of that first year, until the 2006 draft drew closer.
At that point, most draft pundits predicted that Beato had established himself as a legitimate first or second-round candidate with a 2.75 ERA as a freshman.
The Mets, meanwhile, didn't have a pick in the first round, so it seemed fortuitous that they'd maintained negotiating rights with a first-round talent who had the added bonus of being from Queens.
But it was not to be. The two sides could not come to terms financially, and Beato and his advisors decided to take their chances and dive back into the draft.
While he was disappointed, because it would have been nice to look forward to playing close to home, Beato was not devastated. Unlike most New Yorkers, he was a fan of neither the Mets nor the Yankees, but rather one of those kids who followed individual players, among his favorites being Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Albert Pujols and David "Big Papi" Ortiz.
In fact, right until the Orioles called Beato to let him know they were going to take him with their supplemental first-round pick, Beato thought he might wind up a future teammate of Ortiz. The Red Sox had shown the most active interest, going so far as to fly him to Boston to throw bullpen there. But the Sox instead wound up taking UNC hurler Daniel Bard and high school outfielder Jason Place with their two first-round picks.
Beato admits to being a little disappointed when those names came across his computer screen, as he watched at home with his family.
"When I wasn't taken in the first round, I was like, 'What's going on?'" he admitted. "But then after the first round the Orioles called me and told me they were taking me with their supplemental pick, and I just felt like the weight of the world had been taken off my shoulders."
Beato signed with Baltimore quickly and within a few weeks was proudly wearing the Aberdeen uniform.
Since then, he's been one happy camper and, to follow that analogy, the Orioles have been very happy counselors.
One of the first orders of business was to cut his repertoire to three pitches. His slider has gone by the wayside. His sinking fastball in the mid 90s is one of the best in the system, though, and he already has good command of it. The power curve with plus-pitch potential and the circle change round out his arsenal.
Along with those pitches, Beato brings to the table so much more. He is an outstanding athlete with great speed (6.7 in the 60-yard dash). His elbow is fine and not a concern anymore. He has a power pitcher's build. And his personality, enthusiasm and work ethic are all off the charts.
Despite having been here for just a few years, his bilingual ability supports his role as a clubhouse leader, and often leads to being an interpreter.
"Basically, I'm in the middle of everything when it comes to Latin players and their interaction with American players," he said. "We do have American players who speak Spanish, but most of the time I'm still in the middle of every conversation."
Being named to play for the World Team in the Futures Game and represent the Dominican Republic is something that Beato views as a huge honor and privilege.
"I know a lot of people asked me why I'm not representing the U.S., since I live in New York, but I'm not American," he said. "Representing the Dominican Republic, where I was born, is a big thing for me. Hopefully, I'll do a great job."
The Orioles know that Beato figures prominently in their future.
And now the Futures figures prominently in his.