SARASOTA, Fla. ——About this time five years ago, Scott Beerer, a second-round pick who once could throw a fastball in the mid-90s, walked out of Colorado Rockies minor league spring training camp prepared for life after baseball.
He was tired of pitching, tired of living and dying with every throw, tired of trying to pump hope into a dead arm.
Orioles outfielder sits in his first big league spring training camp in Sarasota, rejuvenated by a second chance he didn't believe he would ever have. He's four months shy of his 30th birthday. Age isn't the only obstacle he's fighting — he's also selling the idea that he can reinvent himself as a hitter.
The Orioles signed Beerer to a minor league free-agent deal with a spring training invitation in November, giving him his first taste of the big leagues. A big reason is former Orioles outfielder and new team special assistant Brady Anderson, who has been by Beerer's side the past three years in helping him transition from pitcher to position player.
"It's been a rough road, being as old as I am at 29." Beerer said. "It's been a long time chasing a dream. I've been just trekking along trying to get to this point. It's been a very humbling road, but I feel so blessed and happy that I'm here.
"I was done. It wasn't until the first time I hit with Brady that I realized I could come back. He made me believe in myself. He made me think this could be done."
As a pitcher, Beerer had great promise. He was signed by the Rockies to a $725,000 signing bonus in 2003 out of Texas A&M. But that same year in Rookie ball, he tore his labrum. Surgery repaired his shoulder, but it wouldn't give him back his velocity — and 6-foot, right-handed relievers who throw in the mid-80s are far too common in the minors. He went from prospect to afterthought. Three years later, he was still toiling in Single-A.
Beerer asked the Rockies whether he could become an outfielder. Colorado didn't bite. So Beerer left. He went to EMT school, passed all his tests for the Los Angeles County and city fire departments and began volunteering at hospitals in L.A. to accumulate hours.
To make ends meet, he was a bartender and bouncer in Hermosa Beach.
"Going from a life of baseball to all of a sudden, I'm in school, I'm in bars at night, not sleeping much, it was a tough time, a big transitional period for me," Beerer said. "I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do after baseball."
In the back of his mind, Beerer still hungered for another chance to play baseball. He just needed someone to believe he could do it.
"I just said, 'You know what? I still have that desire to play. I don't want to wake up when I'm 40 and say, 'I wish I had tried to hit.'" Beerer said.
He found his fit in Anderson, whom he met through a mutual friend. Anderson wasn't sold initially.
"I said, 'OK, so I guess it's going to be Babe Ruth, Rick Ankiel and Scott Beerer?'" Anderson said. "I'm like, 'Are you sure you want to do this?'"
So at 26, with two seasons out of the game, Beerer began his comeback with Anderson at his side. He hadn't picked up a bat in six years.
The first time the two worked out, Anderson watched Beerer hit off a tee. He could tell Beerer has strength, and Anderson made a quick tweak to his swing. Suddenly, Beerer was hitting balls 250 feet farther in the air, over the fence.
"Within a half hour, we had to stop hitting because I didn't have any balls left," Anderson said. "He was just launching it, swing after swing after swing. We just went from there."
The two then incorporated boxing, Olympic powerlifting and handstands into their regimens, the same routine Anderson does with other Orioles players.
After seeing Beerer's dedication, the Rockies — the organization that still owned Beerer's rights — gave him another chance heading into the 2009 season, but he would have to work his way back up from the bottom. He started in instructional league, then debuted in Low-A ball, batting .558 in 43 at-bats before going being promoted to High-A.