Although she was a standout basketball, volleyball and softball player at Sinclair Community College in the early 1980s, she was just the ball girl when it came to tennis.
Becky Beekman had never played the sport at Greeneview High School, but became interested in it at Sinclair when she walked into the fieldhouse during coach Linda O’Keefe’s sessions with the Tartan Pride’s tennis team.
“She told me if I picked up the balls for them I could use the ball machine and I did,” Beekman recalled with a laugh.
And, as she did time and again at Sinclair, Beekman took an opportunity and turned it into a career accomplishment.
After two years at Sinclair, then a brief basketball foray at Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma, and a season at Wilmington College, she said she decided to return to Sinclair to “try” to play tennis.
She ended up a national quarterfinalist in singles competition at the NJCAA tournament one season and both years she played, her Sinclair team finished among the top 10 in the nation. After that she went on to become a three-time doubles champion in the YMCA Open here.
That was the magic of Sinclair for Becky Beekman. The school helped raise her to new heights.
“Sinclair is the place where I grew up and where I gained confidence and became a better athlete,” Beekman said. “Even though I went other places to play, none were as great as Sinclair for me.”
And it’s one reason she’s continued to return to the school.
After her three-sport career from 1981-83 and her return for tennis in 1986 and 1987, she came back in the early 1990s to serve as O’Keefe’s assistant basketball coach for several years.
When her job at Emery expanded, she gave up coaching but then returned to Sinclair in 2002 to again aid O’Keefe, who was battling breast cancer.
After a couple of seasons – including a trip to the Elite 8 of the NJCAA tournament – she left again when O’Keefe stepped down for health reasons.
In 2017, Beekman was back, this time to speak on behalf of O’Keefe, who had passed away in 2011 and was a unanimous choice for induction into Sinclair’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.
Tonight, Beekman returns again.
This time is for her own enshrinement into Sinclair’s Hall of Fame.
Chris Spurling – the towering pitcher who came out of Northridge High School and became an All American at Sinclair – is being inducted as well.
He became the school’s first big leaguer. He was drafted by the New York Yankees in 1997 and ended up playing in the Major Leagues for the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers. Tartan Pride baseball coach Steve Dintaman will introduce him.
“We’ve had a lot of guys get drafted and play professional baseball, but he is the first – and only – Sinclair player to appear in a Major League baseball game,” Dintaman said.
“When you first got to Sinclair, he was one of the first guys you heard about, especially when Coach (Jim) Harrison was coaching here. He was one of Coach’s pride and joys and today he inspires a lot of guys who have aspirations of doing what he did and making it all the way to the top.”
Besides having his jersey retired at Sinclair, he’s now in the Hall of Fame, an honor given to only two people a year since inductions began three years ago.
Being in such select company is especially “humbling” Beekman said:
“I’ve never gotten anything this major. It’s an honor and a privilege…Really, it means the world to me.”
Learning toughness, competitiveness
She grew up outside of Jamestown and played sports with her two older brothers, Buster (Ron) and Boom Boom (Bob).
“That’s what we did,” she said. “All summer we played outside. I was the youngest, but they never took any pity on me.”
As she thought about those days, she started to laugh: “I was always the road block for Buster in football. He’d grab me and throw me in front of people’s legs.”
The toughness and competitive edge she learned from her brothers carried over to her days at Greeneview and that’s when she was spotted by Sinclair softball coach Norma Dycus (a Hall of Fame inductee last year.)
“I didn’t know what I was going to do after high school, but then she saw me when our team was playing in the district finals and she said, ‘Hey, you interested in going to college?’
“That was it. She got me hooked on Sinclair. So I went there for a visit, met all the people and loved it and I never looked back. It was a great place for me.”
She especially credits O’Keefe:
“I really loved the way she connected to all of us and I liked the way she coached. She was all about giving your very best all the time and that was right up my alley. It was everything I craved as an athlete.
“Linda was my mentor and taught me a lot about sports and the lessons of life. And it turned into a great, great friendship.”
Still active in sports
Since Sinclair, Beekman, who’s now 56, has continued playing sports. She’s excelled in tennis, played for a while in the short-lived Women’s Basketball League and, after moving to Louisville for her job with UPS, became involved a few years ago in Senior Olympics and excelled at the national tournaments, medaling in basketball and tennis.
She returned to the area recently to help her parents – Bob and Carolyn – while working as an Amazon air supervisor in Wilmington.
“Now I play pickleball,” she chuckled. “That does enough to stoke my competitiveness.”
With all life’s changes, she remains forever beholden to Sinclair.
She’ll have a large contingent of friends, family members – her brother Boom Boom will speak on her behalf – and former teammates at tonight’s ceremony.
“An honor like this comes because of all of them,” she said. “Your teammates and coaches and your friends and family, they all had a hand in something like this. They’re the ones who supported you and helped you when you went to shoot a thousand more baskets or hit a thousand more tennis balls.
“And I owe a lot of thanks to Sinclair, as well.
“It gave me the opportunities and became a very special place for me.
I guess that’s why I’ve never been able to stay away very long.
“I love the place. It’s home.”
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