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Beard races to All-Area Defensive Player of Year

The fastest high school baseball player in the nation patrolled center field for the Loyd Star Hornets this season. The already speedy James Beard added “strong” to the list of adjectives used to describe him and by doing so made himself The Daily Leader All-Area Most Valuable Defensive Player.

The Meridian Community College signee will hear his named called at some point during the Major League Baseball Draft that begins on Monday. The fence line at Smith Field stayed stacked with MLB scouts all season as they came to put their watches and timers on Beard’s fleet feat.

Beard committed to lifting in the offseason and came into his senior season as the biggest, strongest version of himself yet. At the plate he hit .429 with 30 RBIs. He was selected for the MAC 2A All-State team. With his trademark dreads spilling from the back of his helmet Beard roped eight doubles, one triple, and 10 home runs. That was a career high in homers as Beard hit six last season and as a sophomore starter on the 2017 2A state title team he hit two. Beard scored 30 runs and stole 26 bases in 2019. In centerfield he put his speed to good use as the ran down anything in his area while posting a .871 fielding percentage.

It’s almost sickening how easy Beard makes it all look. When he runs his arms pump in perfect form, chest bowed out, and legs firing like pistons. Comparisons you hear are to former Taylorsville standout Billy Hamilton. Hamilton plays center field for the Kansas City Royals and was a second-round draft pick out of high school by the Cincinnati Reds.

Loyd Star coach Jared Britt said during the season said he’d never seen anything like the scouts that followed his Hornets this season. Britt also marveled at how humble Beard has remained throughout his career — despite the attention that his talent and work ethic have drawn.

6.14 seconds in the 60-yard dash, ranked in the top 150 MLB prospects, and made in Loyd Star — Beard is the type of student-athlete we can all be proud of.