Major Leagues: Seager gives Kannapolis Mariner Fever
By Mike London
KANNAPOLIS — Three weeks ago, Kyle Seager was making marathon bus rides in the Southern League.
But suddenly the former Northwest Cabarrus star is in the big leagues, and Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik says Seager’s going to be given a shot at earning the starting job at third base.
“It’s happened fast,” Northwest coach Joe Hubbard said. “A few weeks ago, Kyle’s in Double A, it looks like he might be stuck behind Dustin Ackley (Seattle’s second baseman and Seager’s UNC teammate), and all you can tell him is to keep playing hard. Then, boom, he’s in Triple A, tearing it up, and then, boom, his dad calls and tells you he’s going up. Then you see it running across your TV screen — Seattle has purchased Kyle Seager’s contract — and it’s just really cool.”
Hubbard communicated with Seager twice Wednesday, including a 15-minute chat while he was waiting in the airport to fly to Los Angeles.
“I just told him to enjoy every minute of this, and that he’s the first Northwest Trojan ever to make it,” Hubbard said.
Seager was flying to join the Mariners for a crucial, four-game series against the Angels. Seattle has strong pitching, but its offense has been the worst in the American League. Seager can help. He can hit.
As Northwest’s shortstop, he was a force for a team that reached the 2005 3A state championship series. He crushed the ball for two Kannapolis Legion Area III champions before turning in an All-ACC career at North Carolina.
Seager led all minor leaguers in hits in 2010 with 192 in advanced Class A ball, but those stats didn’t carry a lot of weight with analysts because he played in the best hitter’s park in a hitter’s league.
He quieted critics by continuing to rake this year at Jackson and was promoted to Triple A right after the Southern League All-Star Game.
Seager’s performance at Triple-A Tacoma was electrifying — 25 hits in 12 games.
Then Seattle called.
“Kyle said there was a world of difference in the atmosphere between Double A and Triple A, so I can only imagine the jump now,” Hubbard said. “But he’ll handle it. He’s not just a great player, he’s a pretty great kid.”
Hubbard is one of the world’s most enthusiastic Baltimore Oriole fans — he has a son named Cal — so he was relieved to find Seattle doesn’t play the Birds again this season. However, assuming he sticks with the big-league club, Seager will be playing in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium in just a few weeks.
“I know a lot of the guys are getting together tonight at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch Seattle play on the MLB Network,” Hubbard said. “There are a lot of Seattle fans in Cabarrus County right now.”
A.L. Brown’s Empsy Thompson, who coached Seager on the Kannapolis Legion team, is piloting a South Charlotte Panthers showcase team this summer. He brings up Seager often as an example for his young players.
“A lot of times our hitters come back to the dugout saying, ‘Man, that was my pitch, and I missed it.’ ” Thompson said. “I tell them I never, ever heard Kyle Seager say that. If he got his pitch, he didn’t miss it. He hit it hard, and a lot of times it traveled a long way.”
Seager is the first Kannapolis youngster to reach the majors since Ron Blackburn pitched for Pittsburgh in 1958-59, and you can only imagine what his parents, Jeff and Jody, are feeling right now.
Kyle had surgery to repair a heart defect when he was a few weeks old, and doctors advised them the kid would be fine as long as he didn’t play sports. They refused to place limits on him, however, and 23 years later, he’s in The Show.