Torn Achilles — but not his — leads Seth Beer to Clemson career
It might be a stretch to think that a mother’s torn Achilles could have something to do with one of this college baseball season’s top storylines.
In August 2014 Seth Beer was enlisted to drive his sister, Savannah, to a volleyball tournament at Clemson. Beer was pressed into service because the injury suffered by his mother, Robin, while playing tennis rendered her unable to drive.
Before the three of them left their Georgia home, Robin suggested her son call one of the Tigers baseball coaches and ask if he could visit. He did and arranged to meet with assistant Bradley LeCroy.
Upon arriving at Clemson, Beer took in the surroundings and immediately felt it was a place he might return someday soon.
“The funny thing is Clemson was not on my list when I was looking at schools,” he said. “When my mom said I needed to drive I said, ‘OK, I can do that.’ Right when we got to campus I thought that this was where I wanted to go to school, where I want to play baseball. I fell in love with this place.”
Less than two years later Tigers fans are falling in love with him.
The 19-year-old Beer, who graduated high school in December so he could play for Clemson this season, was among the nation’s leaders in hitting .423 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs through 23 games. His .936 slugging percentage led the country. And to think the teenager has been on campus less than three months.
Things did not immediately come so easily. During the first week of intersquad games the lefty-swinging right fielder was struggling and putting pressure on himself to perform. That was when the Tigers’ first-year head coach Montee Lee stepped in.
“Coach Lee pulled me aside and told me that the game does not really change from when you are little to playing pro ball or whatever it might be,” said Beer, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. “He told me to relax and have fun. I thought about that for a while and told myself it is the same game that I have played my whole life. Go out there and have fun, enjoy it and to not put too much pressure on myself.”
He was feeling pressure last October after his travel team won the WWBA World Championships in Jupiter, Fla. He was not sure which route to take, remain in high school with a good chance at being a high first-round pick in this year’s MLB draft, or go to college.
Beer, who hit .589 as a sophomore and .560 as a junior at Lambert High in Suwanee, sought the advice of his parents, coaches and others. One coach told him to not care about what others think, but to follow his heart.
“Everything since I arrived here has been great,” said Beer, who arrived at Clemson, started classes and began baseball practice within the space of a couple of head-spinning days in early January. “Since day one I felt like I fit in here.”
Before deciding between Clemson and remaining in high school, Beer selected baseball over swimming as the sport to pursue. (He was also a linebacker and quarterback in at Lambert.)
As a youth Beer struggled with growing pains before a physician suggested swimming would provide great help. By age 11 he was a competitive swimmer setting national records in the 50-meter backstroke in his age group before becoming a state champion at Lambert. Beer, who said he would have attended Auburn had he stuck with the pool, trained with the likes of Caeleb Dressel, who has been setting NCAA records at Florida.
Swimming was serious stuff, but baseball won out.
“It was a big decision and when I decided to hang the goggles up it was like a death in the family,” he said. “It was such a big part of my life and somewhere else in a different place I would pick swimming. I love the sport, but I felt that baseball was something that I wanted to pursue. The first person I called when I made my decision was Paul Byrd, who has had a huge influence on me. He said I need to go after my dream.”
That is the same Paul Byrd, who won 109 games as a pitcher in the majors and whose son, Grayson, is a teammate of Beer’s at Clemson. Beer has known the Byrd’s for several years and has often sought advice and guidance from Paul.
“Paul told me that I could be a real good hitter in the future,” said Beer, recalling a conversation from a few years ago. “Having that insight from a guy that played in the big leagues for so many years told me that maybe I do have a shot at playing pro baseball someday.”
Beer will be draft eligible following his junior season at Clemson. By then he will have had three years at the highest level of collegiate baseball.
Baseball fans can get a look at Beer when Clemson travels to Furman for a game Tuesday on ASN. What they will not see is a young man caught up in his early success. Rather, he is refreshingly grounded and understands baseball fortunes can change in a heartbeat.
“Baseball is a very humbling sport,” he said. “It is a sport built on failure. You don’t know what to expect and that’s what makes the sport so fun to compete in. When you fail you have wipe the slate clean and move on to the next at-bat. That’s what drives me.”
Photo courtesy Clemson Athletics