Photo by Sarah Finnegan.
Matt Guerrier, left, and Wes Helms, right, each played Major League Baseball for more than a decade before joining the Briarwood baseball program.
Neither guy knew he would end up at Briarwood Christian School, but Wes Helms and Matt Guerrier say they are enjoying the current stop on their journey as assistant coaches with the high school baseball program.
After both concluded playing careers that spanned more than a decade in Major League Baseball, an opportunity with the Briarwood baseball program came at the right place and the right time.
Helms lives in the area with his wife and kids, so he accomplished much of his offseason work back home in the winter at Briarwood, where he got to know Steve Renfroe, current head coach of the Lion program and former coach at Auburn University.
After playing for the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies and Florida Marlins, Helms went to spring training with the Braves in 2012, but he decided it was time to hang up his spikes.
“I tried spring training in 2012, but I just didn’t want to fight it anymore and scrape for another year,” he said. Helms hit for a .256 batting average over his career, with 75 home runs and 374 runs batted in more than 13 seasons.
As soon as Renfroe caught wind of Helms’ intentions, he had an offer to extend.
“When Steve Renfroe found out I wasn’t going to play — because I’d been up here taking groundballs and stuff — he asked me, ‘Do you want to help us?’” Helms said.
Helms accepted the offer on a volunteer basis that first year and has been a full-time assistant since. The job has been a great transition from his playing days.
“It’s kept me home with my family,” Helms said. “I’ve had a few offers with professional teams (to coach), but I just wasn’t ready to leave yet.”
Guerrier wrapped up an 11-year career as a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs following the 2014 season. He appeared in 555 games and compiled a 3.52 earned run average.
Following his final season, he took some time off to be with his family before jumping into pitching lessons with a few elementary and middle school kids.
Guerrier and his family also have lived in the area for quite some time, and although he and Helms seldom played against each other in the big leagues, the two got to know each other thanks to their close offseason proximity to one another.
“He realized once I got done with (playing), I could be a fit here,” Guerrier said. “It’s been great. My kids go to Briarwood as well, and it’s a great opportunity to be around the community and give back a little bit.”
Having a coaching staff so rich with experience and knowledge puts Briarwood baseball players in a unique position. Guerrier knows the path to the big leagues as a pitcher. Helms knows it as an infielder and hitter. Renfroe’s years of experience at many different levels offers credibility as well; Helms calls his baseball expertise “unlimited.”
“It’s just fun to be around these guys,” Guerrier said of the high school players. “They want to learn, and they’re open to learning and changing and trying new things.”
Both Guerrier and Helms admit the itch to get back into the professional ranks of baseball has not totally eluded them. But until that time comes, they are soaking in the purity of the game they have loved their entire lives.
“To see these kids have the time of their lives and remember this forever, we’re making memories with them,” Helms said.