Few ballplayers have experienced as much change as Hooks first baseman Seth Beer has in the past year.
The 28th overall pick in the 2018 MLB draft after three consecutive All-American campaigns at Clemson, Beer has played at four levels since making his professionally debut June 15, 2018 with Rookie-level Tri-City - a game in which he homered in his third at-bat. His combined 12 home runs in 2018 tied for 8th among those in last year's draft class.
Beer, the No. 9 prospect in Houston's system according to MLB.com, has kept his foot on the gas in 2019, smashing Advanced-A pitching to the tune of a .328 average, nine homers and 34 RBIs in 35 games with Fayetteville before being promoted to Corpus Christi on May 16. With the Hooks, he's produced a .291 average and .408 on-base percentage with four long-balls and 20 RBIs through 24 games.
The 22-year-old from Suwanee, Georgia sat down with the Hooks' Dan Reiner to discuss his meteoric rise through the Astros system, how he prepares for each game and what he thinks of all the jokes about his surname.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Dan Reiner: You flew through Advanced-A after you hit nine homers with Fayetteville. You made the jump to Double-A last month and you've been playing well. But obviously it's harder to hit the ball out against better pitchers at this level. Overall, what do you make of your season so far?
Beer: I think it's been a big deal for me that I've been able to move to Double-A this quickly. It's been a pretty cool experience to start out at a brand-new stadium in Fayetteville, and I enjoyed my time there. But obviously the ultimate goal is to one day be in the big leagues. Getting to this position at this rate is a big deal for me. To face these great pitchers - some guys that have big-league service time - that kind of challenge is a big deal to me.
DR: Playing here at Whataburger Field, it can be tough for a left-handed hitter like yourself to pull the ball in the air to right field because the wind normally blows from right to left off the bay. You look at someone as recent as Yordan Alvarez last year, who had trouble displaying his power here but obviously has a ton of power. Do you find it as an added challenge to adjust for the wind when you play at home?
SB: For me, the challenge has been to stay within myself and do the things that have given me success no matter what the atmosphere or ballpark dictates. A lot of the balls I hit in Fayetteville were to left field, so that's kind of a strength for me and what I try to execute if I can to get it in the air. I'm not trying to let it dictate too much, knowing that this is a tougher ballpark to hit in for a lefty. For me, it's to do what I can to barrel up the ball, and if the wind keeps it in, it keeps it in. At the end of the day, I can't change who I am as a hitter to try to adapt to a ballpark, and I think it's big when it comes to any ballplayer is that step of sticking to your approach no matter what's going on.
DR: Have any other elements of your day-to-day approach changed since you've moved up, whether it's conditioning, working with different coaches or adjusting to tougher pitching?
SB: Everything is new, and that's been a challenge. Thankfully, I've already had a few call-ups and had to deal with change. It isn't as uncomfortable as it used to be. These pitchers are just so good and they throw so much harder and more consistently. They know what they're doing when I come up to the plate. For me it's about being consistent in my own approach and hitting the ball gap-to-gap. If a guy gets you out, sometimes it's not your fault - sometimes that guy just did a good job executing pitches. You have to understand that and mentally get your head around the fact you're going to face great arms every single night.
DR: You're a charismatic guy off the field but at the same time take your job seriously. You seem to really lock in right before games start. I've noticed your pregame routine in the dugout, you'll put your head down and kiss different necklaces you're wearing. What do those necklaces represent and what gets you into your mindset before a game?
SB: Before a game, I pray, and I kiss a cross around my neck. I did it one time and I remember I hit a home run that day, and I just started making it my routine. The other piece is a wishbone that my girlfriend had given me. I've worn that for a long time - probably about five years now. I kiss that for good luck just in case. It's kind of some baseball lore stuff, but I feel like it gets me locked and ready for the game. It just puts me at ease after I pray, to go and compete knowing that it's going to be O.K. no matter what happens.
DR: You were an elite youth swimmer, and you also skated and played football before committing your time to baseball. Of those three other sports, which compares most to baseball?
SB: Swimming, to me, is one of the toughest sports on your body and on your mind. Those guys train four to five hours a day, six days a week. With all that training came a lot of preparation to get your body and mind ready to compete, and I feel like that translated a lot to baseball. We play so many games within a short period of time, so preparation is key to get your body and mind ready.
DR: Lastly, I have to ask you about the Beer puns. Do you have a favorite that you've ever seen or heard?
SB: I think the most common one that I hear - and I hear it on a nightly basis - is "Beer here!" Sometimes I'll be playing first base or I'm in the dugout and someone will be screaming "beer here!" but it's just the vendor selling beer. Then sometimes I'll come up to the plate and it'll be directed toward me: "Beer's here! Beer's here!" I think that's one people have said since I was in high school. It's a pretty easy one and it's one that's stuck.
DR: Do the puns ever get old?
SB: No. It's my name and my family's name and I'm just trying to represent it and honor it to the best of my abilities. If you can crack a joke and make me smile, why not have fun with it?
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.