CLEMSON A lot of adjectives and nicknames have been used to describe Clemson baseball standout Seth Beer, but his latest moniker may be the most applicable.
“Some people have been joking and calling me ‘Ironman,’ ” Beer said.
How he earned his latest nickname is no laughing matter, however.
Beer took a pitch to the face in his last at-bat in the final scrimmage game of the fall last October. The pitch struck him high on the cheek just below his right eye, collapsing his sinus cavity and requiring surgeons to insert three plates in his face.
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And “Ironman” was born.
“The ball is four ounces, but I’ll tell you, those things can do some damage,” said Beer, whose team will open the 2017 season Friday with the first game of a three-game series against Wright State at Doug Kingsmore Stadium. “Thankfully my vision is OK and there were no effects from it.”
Beer’s rapid recovery and upbeat attitude aren’t to imply that there weren’t some concerns in the incident’s aftermath. The reigning National Player of the Year pondered the possibilities – good and bad – as he lie in the Tigers’ training room with an ice pack on his face.
“Right after I got hit I had some moments where everything in your head is kind of swirling and you’re like, ‘What if this is my last time?’ ” Beer said. “You’ve got ice on your face and it’s just quiet and you’re staring at the ceiling and you’re just there with your thoughts. That’s when it crept in.
“You hear about that kind of stuff all the time when baseball players get hit in the eye and lose an eye or part of their vision. There’s a lot of scariness in that.”
When he heard that his vision wouldn’t be impacted, he was overcome with relief.
“Being able to get that news was a great feeling and just kind of rejuvenated my love for the game,” Beer said. “You only get to play so long, you only get to put on a jersey so long, so you need to cherish every moment. You can’t take this game for granted because it can be taken away so quick.”
Beer will wear a protective extension on his helmet this season – “and probably for the rest of my college career,” Beer said.
Junior pitcher Alex Schnell, who delivered the pitch that turned Beer into “Ironman,” felt worse about the incident than Beer, who has shrugged it off as “part of the game.”
“He came in there (to the locker room) and apologized so many times,” Beer said. “I’m never going to blame a player for something like that. Stuff like that happens, but it took him a while to accept it. He felt awful, but I didn’t want him to.”
Beer, who made the transition from right field to first base during the offseason, is focused on living up to lofty expectations after a freshman season that saw him hit .369 with 18 home runs and 70 RBIs.
But he still finds time to joke with Schnell about the wayward pitch of last October.
“I do push his buttons from time to time,” Beer said. “We beat his team in high school in the state championship, so I asked him, ‘Hey, did you do that on purpose because, you know, hard feelings?'
“But he knows I’m kidding. I would never be mad at a teammate for something like that, ever.”
Spoken like a true Ironman.
Who: Clemson vs. Wright State
When: Friday, 4 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m,; Sunday, 1 p.m.
Where: Doug Kingsmore Stadium