ATHENS – Georgia led Clemson 6-5 on the scoreboard, and by the time Seth Beer stepped into the batter's box for his likely last at-bat of the game—the air much colder, the breeze more prominent—most of the sellout crowd at Foley Field had exited prematurely, leaving pockets of committed fans clad in orange or red sprinkled in the stands.
Propped in lawn chairs on a hill overlooking the game just past the right-field wall, a few dozen loyal Georgia students stayed the course they set in the first inning, making sure to reserve their loudest heckles for the kid named Beer.
Beer—a freshman—had garnered attention all game as he was hit by a pitch in his first two at-bats, walked in his third and popped out in his fourth. If he couldn't convert in a rare fifth at-bat, his 24-game hitting streak would come to a halt.
“Beer! Beer! We need more Beer!”
Clang. The sound that came off Beer's bat as he connected with a fastball was almost foreign to the ear of the greatest baseball connoisseurs in the stands. A white speck quickly hurdled into the sky and curled into the night, eventually disappearing behind the approximately 50-feet high wall in right-center field.
Georgia's center and right fielder both watched the entire flight of the ball, as did the pitcher, as if they were spectators. Beer's monster home run—his 13th of the season, second in the entire country—tied the game at 6-6. Moments later, Clemson was loading the buses after an 11-6 victory to improve to 22-7 on the season.
Beer, the kid from Lambert High School who skipped his senior season to enroll early at Clemson, also bypassing an earlier chance at the pros, has quickly become a transcendent name in college baseball across the country with moments like the one he had Tuesday night.
He entered the game with a .422 batting average, 38 hits, 12 home runs, 37 RBI and a .911 slugging percentage. He finished 2 for 3 with a home run, a single and three RBI against the Bulldogs—the first team to recruit him.
But there was only one statistic that mattered to Beer when the game was over: 6-6.
“Honestly, I was more excited coming around to home plate and realizing we had a tie ball game, so it was time to go get a win,” Beer said of the moment he blasted a shot that even brought Georgia fans out of their seats. “To be honest, I think, to me, that felt like the hardest ball I've ever hit in my life. That was a cool feeling.”
His performances have earned him accolades not reserved for freshman. Just days ago Beer was tabbed as the National Hitter of the Month for March by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Many in the depths of the Internet's baseball-focused social media think he's already a worthy candidate for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur baseball player in America each year. He already has a grand slam and a walkoff home run.
Just the other day, Clemson star quarterback DeShaun Watson (formerly a Gainesville Red Elephant) Tweeted at Beer, simply using the goat emoji—signifying that Beer was The G.O.A.T, or Greatest of All Time. Clemson's head football coach, Dabo Swinney, was even quoted by TheClemsonInsider.com on Monday saying, “I have to meet the Beer kid. He is a lumberjack.”
Despite the sudden fame, Beer made sure to scope out a man in a garnet and gray jacket after his team's win against the Bulldogs—one that lasted over four hours. That man was his former baseball coach and athletic director, Drew Ferrer. Ferrer and many others from the Lambert community made the drive to Athens on Tuesday to watch Beer in action.
“I saw him before the game and was excited they were here. It meant a lot,” Beer said. “It was a long game and to stay until the end, I had to go hug them and thank them for what they've done. I would not be here without them. They got me to where I am today and I'll always treasure that.”
Beer's humble attitude was immediately apparent to Clemson head coach Monte Lee.
“Seth Beer is the same guy every day,” Lee said. “There's nothing too big for him, he's very calm, collected and mature. He gets along great with his teammates. He's the ultimate team guy. Even though he's having an unbelievable year and doing unbelievable things, he wants nothing more than to win. You see him get hit by pitches. He'll do that because he knows we need base runners. He does everything for the team on top of being a special talent.”
Beer won't deny those sentiments. In fact, despite it all, he still sees himself as a new guy with the Tigers.
He will still, even after hitting an epic home run in a baseball game against a rival opponent in their own yard, enter a completely unnecessary but admirable stream of consciousness when asked about how his freshman season is going.
“It's been great,” Beer said. “The first day on campus I wasn't known by anyone really. I was walking to my first class, got completely lost and I had to ask a complete stranger to walk me to my first class. Then someone else helped me to my second. I just felt so welcomed. I feel so welcomed, and that goes a long way. I felt comfortable here right off the bat and I truly think that contributes to me feeling comfortable on the field. It's something special to be part of a tight knit family.”
Even as humble as he is, Beer still managed to admit when the game was over that he heard the hecklers sitting on the hill in right field. He didn't block them out.
“They kept saying I hadn't done anything all game, so in the back of my mind I knew I needed to do something,” Beer said. “They were laughing and cutting up. It was kind of cool to hit a bomb to their side, I ran down the line and it was just quiet. They were heckling from my first swing, all the way to the end.”
“I couldn't help but smile,” Beer said.
When asked if he could have imagined anyone hitting a home run over the right-field scoreboard, Lee offered a simple response.
“Well, if anybody could do it, it's Seth Beer,” Lee said. “He's special. He's really something else.”