Beach inducted at Delta State

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

Jeannie Beach was inducted into the Delta State University Sports Hall of Fame April 1 at Walter Sillers Coliseum in Cleveland. Beach is joined by her parents, Shirley and David Crnkovic. (Submitted photo)

NATCHEZ — Jeannie Beach was not a heavily recruited softball player coming out of Ferriday High School in 1993. But it wasn’t because she didn’t have the talent.

It took a call from a friend and the simple act of turning down water for Beach to get the opportunity to play college ball.

She would take care of the rest herself, and was rewarded on April 1, with an induction into the Delta State Sports Hall of Fame.

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Beach was very honored with the recognition, she said.

“I guess I never even thought about it, it was like a dream. I wouldn’t say a dream come true, because I never really thought that far in advance. I just never thought about the hall of fame,” Beach said.

Ferriday was a fledgling program that had just started playing fast-pitch, so no college coaches made it to see Beach perform.

Beach’s older sister, Jennifer, had a friend named Marni Edwards, who was a softball player at Delta State. Edwards called one day, during Beach’s senior year, and although she was looking for Jennifer, she told Beach to come and try out for the team.

Beach had never heard of the school, or the town, Cleveland, Miss.

Beach traveled to Cleveland and tried out with one other girl. She tried out in the outfield, infield, at catcher and pitcher, even though she knew she was not good enough to pitch, she said.

About halfway through the tryout, Beach unknowingly separated herself from her competition.

“(Coach John Garris) asked us if we wanted to stop and get some water, and (the other girl) said yes, and I said no, and (Garris) said, that’s what got me there,” Beach said.

“(Garris said), ‘I knew it was hot, and you were thirsty, but to tell me no showed how tough you are, and I knew I wanted you.’”

“That was my ticket in, he didn’t even know where Ferriday was.”

Once Beach got on campus, she quickly became a star. About midway through her freshman year she took over as starting catcher and would remain a starter for the rest of her career, she said.

By the time her career ended she was in the top 10 of eight statistical categories at Delta State. She was also named to the All-South Regional team in 1997 and 1998.

Delta State won the Western Division of the Gulf South Conference all four years Beach was there, she said.

Beach received a phone call to notify her that she had been elected.

“I was shocked and ecstatic at the same time,” Beach said.

“After that I called my mom (Shirley Crnkovic), and she was in Wal-mart, and I could hear her hollering on the phone. She was excited for me.”

Beach was inducted on April 1 at Walter Sillers Coliseum, on Delta State’s campus, along with nine other inductees.

The banquet featured a meet-and-greet, dinner and then all the inductees gave speeches. Leading up to the event, Beach, who is currently an algebra teacher at Vidalia High School, was nervous about her speech, she said.

“I had actually practiced (my speech) in class, in front of my students and every time I spoke to my class I teared up,” Beach said.

But once she finally got up to speak, she wasn’t nervous at all and didn’t even cry, she said.

“I was shocked (that I did not cry). My mom cried.”

Beach’s family members and coaches were at the event to support her, she said.

Her two sons, Braxton, 10, and Fisher, 8, her stepdaughter Darby, 11, her husband Eddie and her parents Shirley and David Crnkovic were all there. Her sister, Jennifer and aunt, Brenda Short, made it to the event as well. Her other two stepchildren, Danae Lohnes, 19, and Drue Beach, 21, were unable to attend.

Beach majored in psychology and minored in math at Delta State. After graduation she started working at Huntington School as a geometry teacher and softball coach.

She then taught and coached at Ferriday before the softball program died out, she said.

After that she went to Vidalia and was the assistant softball coach for two years, and then the head coach for two years, before she had to quit coaching to raise her children, she said.

“I was a single mom at the time and the kids just needed me at home, so I quit,” Beach said.

Beach hopes to get back into coaching someday soon, and she is currently coaching her stepdaughter’s summer ball team, she said.

“I watched (Darby) play all last year, and I was just chomping at the bit to get out there. Maybe within the next couple of years (I can get back in coaching),” Beach said.

Beach also hopes that her recognition will help get Vidalia athletes the opportunity that she almost missed out on, she said.

“I hope that me being inducted will open doors for my high school athletes,” Beach said. “I’m hoping that now if I call and say, ‘this is Jeannie Beach,’ hopefully my name will be out there more.”