Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cop now on other end of radar gun

Beuning takes break from police chores to pitch for Goldeyes

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First things first: Brian Beuning will tell you his regular job -- working as a Minnesota state trooper on the highways and interstates in the southwest corner of the state -- is a pretty cool gig.

Still, temporary as it may be, these last few days as a fill-in middle reliever with the Winnipeg Goldeyes have been not only an absolute blast for the 31-year-old but one of the cooler stories in the American Association this season.

In short, he's gone from one end of radar gun to the other.

"That's pretty good... you come up with that yourself?" said Beuning with a grin prior to Friday's game with the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks.

"Let's just say I can't throw as fast as most people drive."

Independent baseball has always been about giving second chances to players who have slipped through the cracks, but the how and why of Beuning's return to the Goldeyes -- he was here in 2007-08 -- is almost certain to become the stuff of legend.

It was about a week ago when Beuning sent Ace Walker, a Fish teammate then and now, a note asking if he was going to pitch in a series in nearby Sioux Falls. Beuning figured he could score some tickets from Walker for himself, his wife and a few buddies.

"(Walker) sends a message back asking, 'You want to pitch tonight?' " explained Beuning.

"I figured he was BS-ing but just wrote back, 'Yes.' Then he ends up calling and I said, 'Don't be messing with me now.' He said, 'No, I'm serious. Here's (Goldeyes' manager Rick) Forney...' and he puts Rick on the phone. He told me the bullpen had been used quite a bit and he said he was serious and asked if I wanted to sign a three-day contract. I said, 'Heck yeah, I'll be right over.'"

Now, it's not like Beuning completely disappeared from the game in the years since '08. He plays shortstop for the Luverne Redbirds in the Minnesota Baseball Association, "tries to hit a little bit" and, if need be, will close out games.

He'll be back with the Redbirds soon enough -- he took a couple days off this week and is on a six-day break before having to return to work -- but is living in the here and now.

And loving every minute of it.

Asked to describe this latest chapter in his baseball career -- the improbability of it, the Disney-like twist to it -- Beuning just shrugs, smiles and offers this:

"I don't know, but it's fun as hell. When I retired I knew I could still play. That was four years ago, but I kept playing ball in a men's league. I kept throwing. I love the game. I told Rick I've been waiting four years for this phone call."

It'll be a short-lived stint, however. New pitcher Stephen Kahn has arrived in Winnipeg and will be activated by Sunday, forcing Beuning out of the lineup.

In the meantime, he pitched well Thursday night in picking up the win in relief in a 3-2 decision over Fargo -- with his wife and his parents in the stands at Shaw Park.

"He's an athlete," said Forney. "He was my best reliever a few years ago. He takes pretty good care of himself. He's excited to be back here, you can sure tell that. He's valuable because he can pitch every day. He'll be on our taxi squad.

"He's been around awhile. He knows what's going to work for him and what isn't going to work and what is expected of him. He just competes."

But it'll be back to the other end of the radar gun soon.

"I know the new guy is coming," said Beuning of Kahn. "That's OK. I just want to help out. I love being here. It's a helluva story, isn't it?"

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter@ WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 C8

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