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Playing His Game

Playing His Game

Note: The following appears in the March issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.

Last June, Seth Beer was at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., home of the College World Series, when the Jumbotron in the outfield lit up in orange.

“It was like instinct where I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, where’s my stuff? I have to get out there and play.’

“But it was Oklahoma State’s practice starting…it had to be them. Talk about a dagger to the heart.”

While Beer was not in Omaha with his teammates to play for a national title, he was there for a special reason…to receive the Dick Howser Trophy, given to college baseball’s national player-of-the-year. He became the first freshman to receive the award.

The experience in Omaha capped off an impressive freshman campaign for Beer, and not only from a statistical standpoint. From graduating high school a semester early and immediately being thrown into college life and ball at the same time, to traveling around the world with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team over the summer, Beer’s first year also represented a great deal of growth, both on and off the field.

“I’ve grown a ton as a person and as a student, and that’s been big, and obviously as a baseball player as well. Between my experiences at Clemson and getting to a regional my first year, and also having the opportunity to play overseas with Team USA this summer, I feel like I’ve grown to be three times the baseball player I used to be. Being able to travel and play with some of the best players in our country and in other countries as well was incredible for me to experience.”

It was a year of big moments, from blasting onto the scene with a grand slam as his first career home run, to hitting four long balls in one series against Wake Forest, to walking off against Boston College with yet another homer, to a “moonshot” over the right-field scoreboard at Georgia, to every one of the rest of his team-leading 18 home runs. But there was one in particular that stuck out as his favorite moment of them all.

“My favorite moment was during the regional when I came up in the third inning with the bases loaded, two outs and we were down by two runs to Western Carolina, and I hit a home run off the batter’s eye. That was probably the coolest moment of my baseball career…the coolest thing ever.

“It was one of those things…I remember walking up to the plate and I remember thinking how cool it would be if I hit a home run right then. I wasn’t nervous, and the only thing I thought about was, ‘I wonder what my mom and girlfriend are feeling like right now,’ because I knew they were probably so nervous.

“I smiled to myself and I stepped into the box and felt very comfortable. I knew that if he put one in the wheelhouse, I had a pretty good shot of hitting one out. Anything can happen, obviously, but I was staying hopeful.

“Thankfully, I got a pitch I could handle, and I put it over the center field wall. As I was rounding first base, the blistering screams that I could hear gave me chills. It was vibrating inside my helmet and my ears were ringing almost like I was at a concert. I was in awe of how many people were there.”

But there was also a special significance to the moment for Beer, as he took it as a chance to pay homage to his late grandfather, who passed away earlier in the season.

“When I rounded first base, and I pointed to the sky with a ‘one.’ I wasn’t actually saying that ‘we’re No. 1,’ I was pointing to my grandfather, who passed away last season. I was saying, ‘This is for you, Pop.’ A lot of people don’t know that, so that’s a cool thing that I like to think back on.”

Beer had a close relationship with his grandfather, and he hopes that his remarkable first year helped him touch people’s lives in the same ways that his grandfather did for him.

“I’d hope he’d be pretty proud of the season. It’s been cool to be able to experience it with my grandma, throughout this whole process. Ever since I was a little kid, he always said that, ‘God has a plan for you,’ and obviously as a young teenager, I blew it off. But that was the first thing I thought of when I hit that home run.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be the only time that ever happened, but I hope I’ve touched some people throughout this whole experience so far. It was really cool to be able to talk to her about that, and she talked to me about how proud he would be of me.” Now in his second year as a Tiger, Beer wants to do everything in his power to help his team get to Omaha. Whether that be continuing to put up big numbers at the plate or being hit by a pitch or taking a walk, he used his first full college offseason to train harder than ever before. But ultimately, for Beer, if Clemson is winning, he is having a good year.

“An ideal sophomore season would be me doing whatever I can to help my team win. I’m trying not to look at it stats-wise, because it can really hurt you if you’re basing it off what you did the year before. I’m going to go out there and play my game. People always say that the hardest year is the one after a good year, and it’s something that guys can really get tied up with.

“So I’m just trying to dumb it down and make it easy. If I’ve got guys in scoring position, I just have to do what I can to help our team win. If you dumb it down to that point, then you’re playing the game again.

“At the end of the day, when I was playing my best was when I was doing just that. Obviously, I think we have some great guys around the program this year who are help with that. Guys like that make it such that I really don’t feel like I have too much pressure on myself.”

It all just comes back to playing his game.

“Last summer, one of my teammates on Team USA was talking to me on one of our flights home, and he said, ‘You’ve been at this level for around six months. How much do you think you’ve learned from when you first got here to now?’ And sometimes I wish I could go back and talk to myself before I got to Clemson.”

What would he tell his recent high school graduate self?

“I would tell him to play the game the way you’ve played ever since you were a little kid. The game never changes, no matter who’s watching or who you’re playing against. It never changes.”