Brian Beatson could never sit still.
As a 4-year-old, Beatson grabbed a bat and was hitting baseballs off a T. From then on, his love of sports grew.
To Beatson, he didn’t care which season it was. In the fall, he was throwing a football. In the winter months, he was dribbling a basketball and making lightning quick passes to his teammates. In the spring and summer, he could be found on a baseball diamond, fielding, pitching and hitting. Football, basketball and baseball, Beatson played all three sports well.
“He played sports year round,” Beatson’s father Kenneth shared recently. “He never played to come in second. Brian always played expecting to win.”
Kenneth said his son believed in giving 100 percent to whatever sport he was playing.
“Giving your best,” he said. “That’s what Brian believed in.”
Beatson excelled in football, basketball and baseball.
In his junior year at Laurence Manning Academy, Beatson’s football team won the state championship with an 11-0 season. Beatson was named Most Promising Underclassman.
That same year in basketball, Beatson was named to the South Carolina Independent School Association’s All Star Team.
The winning continued on the baseball diamond. In his junior year, LMA won the state championship.
Beatson had an exceptional senior year at LMA.
The Swampcats repeated as state champs with an identical 11-0 season. Beatson was named the All Conference Team’s MVP.
On the hardwoods, Beatson was selected the All Conference Team’s MVP.
“Brian was a very quiet spoken young man,” said his LMA basketball coach Gerald Wilder. “He was maybe a little on the shy side.”
Wilder said Beatson’s shyness and quiet demeanor disappeared when the young man hit the basketball court.
“He was an outstanding person and a tremendous competitor,” Wilder said. “He was a super duper ball handler down the court. He could look one way and throw the ball another way. I told his teammates that they had better pay attention or they’d get hit in the nose with the ball. With Brian, you never knew when the ball would be coming.”
Wilder said in the mid-1980s North Carolina’s four-corner offense was popular.
“When the opposing team would go man-to-man, we’d go to the four-corner offense with Brian in the middle,” Wilder added. “Brian was so quick no one could guard him on a layup. If the ball went to Brian, he’s pass the ball off for a score. He was quick.”
Wilder called Beatson one of the “best athletes” that he’s coached in his entire career.
“He’s a winner,” Wilder said. “He was good at all sports. He was a natural athlete.”
Wilder said the Gamecocks didn’t use Beatson as well as they could have.
“He should have started everyday,” Wilder said. “He should have been the starting shortstop and the lead off batter. They could have used him everyday.”
“Brian is a fine young man,” Wilder added. “He was raised right.”
On the diamond, LMA was state runner-up and Beatson was named his team’s MVP. His senior year, Beatson was 10-2 with one save and a 0.56 earned run average. He struck out 147 batters in just 75-1/2 innings. He had a pair of no hitters in compiling five shutouts. In one no-hitter, LMA’s right-hander struck out 20 batters in just seven innings.
Throughout his high school years, Beatson played Manning-Santee American Legion baseball. His senior year, Beatson was chosen as his team’s MVP.
One teammate who knew Beatson better than anyone was Stacey McInnis, Beatson’s battery mate since Little League.
“I saw first hand his development as a pitcher,” McInnis said. “By the time we were in high school, there was no doubt he would play college ball somewhere.”
McInnis described his teammate as “very competitive.”
“Whether we were playing stick ball in the backyard or a simple game of HORSE on a Sunday afternoon, he was always driven to win,” McInnis said.
“Catching him was a thrill,” McInnis added. “Never having to face him as a hitter – that was a blessing.”
Did Beatson throw hard? Ask McInnis.
“Well, let’s just say I kept a permanent bruise on the palm of my left hand from March to July of every year,” Beatson’s catcher said. “Brian had a good curve ball, but most people couldn’t hit his fastball so there was very little need to use it.”
One little tidbit McInnis did share about his talented teammate – while Beatson was athletic in three sports and could hold his own athletically against anyone – on the dance floor, Beatson had two left feet.
Beatson’s prowess on the diamond had scouts from the University of South Carolina, Clemson, Baptist, The Citadel, Coastal Carolina, Wofford, Francis Marion and Liberty Baptist in Virginia recruiting the teenager.
He chose the Gamecocks who were at that time lead by Coach June Raines.
From 1986-1990, Beatson was a member of the USC baseball team.
“I started my first game at USE,” Beatson added. “It wasn’t the best game.”
His freshman year as a Gamecock, Beatson got the ball a good bit as a reliever.
In between his freshman and sophomore years, Beatson had an operation on his shoulder.
“I gained 5 miles per hour on my fast ball,” he said. “I was being used more in short relief and closing.”
By the middle of his sophomore season, Beatson was No. 1 in the nation in saves.
After his sophomore year, he had another operation – this time on his elbow.
His junior year was “rough,” but by the time his senior year rolled around, Beatson was back to normal – even stronger than before.
“When I left Carolina, I had set several records, but they’re all gone now,” he said.
Beatson reminisced about walking out to the mound in relief.
“The ballpark is loud with people cheering,” he said. “You don’t hear it. Everything slows down. You zone in to what you need to do. You turn off everything except what you need to do right then. That’s the biggest thing. What pitches you use today are the pitches that are working today – not what worked yesterday. That might not be what’s working today.”
In 1991, Beatson was named one of USC’s 100 All Time Best Athletes.
In 2000, Beatson was named to USC’s All Time Baseball Team.
“Those were humbling experiences.” Beatson shared.
Today, Beatson lives in the Irmo area and coaches baseball.
On Jan. 14, he held a Baseball Academy for area youth.
This past year, he coached his son’s travel team.
Beatson’s Irmo Major All-Star team finished the season as state champions.
“That’s something that’s never been done here before,” he said. “There a lot of great teams here.”
Beatson said the memories he’s gathering as a coach are more meaningful than those he garnered as a player.
“This is a phenomenal experience. It’s very rewarding to see children accomplish so much.”
Beatson said today’s athletes have so much more to distract them than athletes did when he was in high school.
“They have cell phones and I-pads,” he said. “We didn’t have those things. We got outside and played ball.”
Beatson said the best advice he ever received came from the late Bernie Jones, his American Legion coach.
“Coach Jones called me to breakfast one morning,” Beatson remembered. “He told me, ‘You had a great year, but that was last year and that doesn’t matter anymore.’”
“His advise to forget everything you did the day before – forget it. That’s the best advice I have to give to young athletes today. Don’t dwell on yesterday. Yesterday was yesterday. You are only as good as you are today.”