Seager selected in third round by Seattle
By Mike London
When the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft came calling this time, Kyle Seager was ready.
Seager, a junior third baseman at North Carolina, was the 82nd pick in Tuesday's draft. A New York Yankees and Derek Jeter fan, Seager was taken in the third round by the Seattle Mariners.
"When you think about it, not a bad week," Seager said with a laugh. "Get drafted, then go try to win a national championship."
Seager and the Tar Heels will chase that elusive national title this weekend at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. He anticipates signing with Seattle and getting his pro career started shortly after that, although he still has the leverage of returning to UNC for his senior year if the Mariners' bonus offer isn't generous.
After graduating from Northwest Cabarrus in 2006, Seager wasn't drafted, but that was mostly his decision.
Tampa Bay scouts were in his living room twice and were prepared to take him in the fifth round provided he was signable for fifth-round money.
Seager and his parents decided he wasn't and let the Rays know. There were too many reasons to honor his scholarship commitment to North Carolina.
Seager was a superb, polished left-handed hitter with a great eye at age 18 ó East Rowan coach Brian Hightower declared him the best prep hitter he'd ever seen ó but he's better in a lot of ways at 21 than he was at 18.
He hit .308 for UNC as a freshman second baseman. He broke out as a sophomore with 30 doubles and 75 RBIs. As a junior, he moved to third base. Heading into the World Series, he's batting .386 with five homers and 59 RBIs, and he's even 13-for-14 stealing bases. The lone knock on him in high school was he wasn't fast. He's sprinted respectable 6.9 60s for scouts in recent months to put that one negative to rest.
"It was absolutely, 100 percent, the right decision to go to Carolina ó the best decision I've made," Seager said.
"So many good things happened to me. The coaching was great, and this will be three years going to Omaha with a great group of guys. My academic experiences at the university have been wonderful. I've had the chance to face top-notch pitching in the ACC every weekend, and even the mid-week games we saw someone's best pitcher because everyone wants to beat Carolina. I'm on pace to graduate in four years, and I'm bigger, stronger and more mature than I was three years ago."
Since he turned down the 2006 draft, Seager has spent two summers in the Cape Cod League proving he could swing a wood bat, and his family has waited patiently for 2009.
He practiced Tuesday afternoon with the Tar Heels, then dashed home to be with his parents, Jeff and Jody, plus brothers Justin and Cory, a pair of Northwest Cabarrus infielders, to watch the draft unfold.
Seager had hopes of being taken in the second round, but the third wasn't a huge disappointment.
"It's all so out of your hands," Seager said. "There were things I thought might happen that didn't happen, but I'm happy. I knew Seattle was one of the teams most interested. They've liked me from the beginning."
Seattle's interest in Seager escalated as it scouted UNC first baseman Dustin Ackley, the top college hitter in the draft. The Mariners grabbed Ackley with the No. 2 overall pick.
"Dustin and I lived together when we were freshmen," Seager said. "Maybe the Mariners will send us to the same place and it will happen again."
Some teams liked the 6-foot-1, 187-pound Seager as a second baseman, while others preferred his work at the hot corner. He has plenty of arm for either position and adequate range. He projects to hit lots of doubles but not many homers. That makes him a better fit at second base.
"Whatever gets me on the field I'm willing to do, but I really prefer second base and being in the middle of the field," Seager said. "I'm not the biggest guy in the world."
By 11 p.m. on Tuesday night, Seager had received 40 congratulatory text messages, including one from UNC coach Mike Fox. He also has media obligations to fulfill in Chapel Hill today before the Tar Heels head to Omaha, seeking to end an ACC drought that has lasted since 1955.
But he had a chance to sleep last night in Kannapolis in the bed where he grew up. He planned to dream about doubles, not dollars. The money may be nice, but baseball is his life.
"I'm just excited," Seager said. "Being drafted is what you dream about. It's the ultimate goal for every ballplayer."