Seth Beer entered spring training with something to prove.
A non-roster invitee, Beer was the cornerstone of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ return last summer when the D-backs traded Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros in a five-player deal.
By all accounts, the former first-round pick and Lambert phenom had a tremendous season last year in the minors, splitting time between High-A and Double-A ball. Beer hit .289 with 26 home runs and 103 RBIs, despite a post-trade dip in production.
But this was Beer’s chance to make a statement, and to play among some of the best in the sport.
Turns out, he’ll have to wait a while longer. Beer logged just 17 at-bats for the Diamondbacks in spring training, his most recent coming two months ago, when he went 0 for 1 with a walk in a 10-5 win against the San Diego Padres on March 7.
Now, Beer is doing everything he can to stay in shape, but nobody knows when that next at-bat will come — or if it will even come this season.
“It’s just kind of one of those things,” Beer said. “Hopefully it won’t take as long as I’m thinking, but we’ll just see. The longer it goes, the harder it might be.”
How long the pause in play will last is the ultimate question, with rumors circulating about the 2020 minor league season potentially being canceled altogether.
“I haven’t heard anything, but talking to my agents and some people, the chances of minor league baseball are going down,” said Kyle McCann, who graduated from Lambert in 2016 before starring at Georgia Tech and being drafted by the Oakland Athletics. “As of now, there’s still no decision. We don’t really know much.”
McCann’s last at-bat came on March 10.
What would he do if he doesn’t get another at-bat this season?
“I don’t know. I’d probably go insane,” McCann said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t know what to do without baseball. I’m sure I’ll find something to do. I might have to get a job.”
McCann said he’s receiving $400 per week, part of Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred’s plan to keep players compensated through the end of May.
With the season being postponed before even beginning, baseball figures to be the sport hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, and minor league baseball appears to be in the crosshairs as the conversation shifts to budget reduction.
MLB is expected to slash about 40 minor league affiliates — though that was in the works before the pandemic — and last week, MLB announced the 2020 draft will be shortened from 40 rounds to just five.
I don’t know. I’d probably go insane. I wouldn’t know what to do without baseball. I’m sure I’ll find something to do. I might have to get a job.Kyle McCann, Lambert alum
Forsyth County currently has five players in minor league baseball. Lambert alums Beer, McCann and Danny Edgeworth, along with Dakota Chalmers (North Forsyth) and Ethan Hankins (Forsyth Central).
McCann, who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB draft, ended last season with the Single-A Short Season Vermont Lake Monsters, spent the bulk of his rookie year adjusting to the grueling demands of minor league baseball.
“You’re traveling every three days playing minor league ball, going on probably six-hour, seven-hour drives back and forth,” McCann said. “Other than the bus rides, I’d say the pitching is probably a little bit better. Everyone throws harder. The game’s a little faster.”
Beer played nearly a full season in 2019 — 157 games if you count his 19 games in the Arizona Fall League — logging more than 600 at-bats, well over his average season at Clemson.
“It’s a hard life to play minor league baseball,” Beer said. “We’re all shooting for one day playing in the big leagues, and that’s the goal, and I think that’s what’s driving everybody. At a time like this, where nobody’s playing and no games are going on, it’s really tough. But we’re just going to get through it one step at a time.”
In fact, that grind is one of the reasons Beer decided to take up yoga. Originally turned on to it by his girlfriend, Beer said he quickly saw the benefits and now enjoys doing it.
“I think it really helps the mobility aspect of it. It’s really good with flexibility,” Beer said. “I mean, when you play 70 games in a year, that’s kind of the stuff that starts to go first. Just working on that stuff and full mobility, and just continuing to test your limits as an athlete. I think keeping your mind and body occupied with something is always good.”
Both Beer and McCann said facing a pitching machine is the closest they get to live pitching. For McCann, his basement gym in Suwanee allows him to remain in physical shape.
But while training for what will be a shortened 2020 season at best, Beer recognizes that this situation has given him a unique opportunity to appreciate those around him.
“I kind of just keep myself occupied and see it for what it is,” Beer said. “I take it as a chance to be able to see my family more, because I’m gone so much, and hang out with my dog. Just little things like that. Just take those little victories like that, and that’s what’s kind of keeping me sane throughout the situation.”