Drayer: Kyle Seager’s Mariners career a good story from the beginning
It’s not the news you expect to see on a snowy Wednesday morning. Kyle Seager is calling it a career after playing 11 MLB seasons, all with the Mariners.
A note from my husband. pic.twitter.com/Zl5peB3vR2
— Julie Seager (@JulieSeager15) December 29, 2021
Never one for social media, the announcement came via his wife Julie’s Twitter account with no fanfare. No, the fanfare already happened on the last day of the season in an emotional moment shared by teammates and fans in attendance at T-Mobile Park. At the time it was thought he would be moving on to his next chapter in baseball. As it turns out, it was a closing of a book of 13 years of exploits in a Mariners or affiliates uniform, and no other on the pages in between.
In those pages in between, the story of a fan favorite and future Mariners Hall of Famer.
It was a good story from the beginning. Dustin Ackley’s teammate at North Carolina. The guy who kept catching the eyes of scouts who were there to see the eventual No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft, not him. A surprise third-round selection as the Mariners jumped him on their draft board, and it’s safe to say they got it right.
Seager tore through the minors, hitting .345/.419/.503 (.921 OPS) at Single-A High Desert in 2010 and then .333/.399/.495 (.894) between Double-A and Triple-A in 2011 before being called up to the bigs. Chone Figgins, who was in the second year of a four-year, $36 million deal at the time, was hitting a miserable .183 with a .476 OPS, and Seager was about to get his chance. His debut came July 7, 2011 in Anaheim. The 23 year old went 0 for 4 at the plate with two strikeouts and would have to wait another three days before recording his first big league hit, a line-drive single to center off Dan Haren.
The team then headed home, where Seager got to play in front of the Safeco Field fans for the first time. That day about an hour before first pitch, I encountered Seager in full uniform amongst the incoming fans in the lobby area of the Diamond Club, tickets in hand looking for his family. I greeted the rookie and suggested he let the traveling secretary handle getting the tickets to Mom and Dad. It was such a rookie move and one of many we saw in his first days with the team.
Seager’s first go-round in the big leagues was short-lived, just seven games where he went 3 for 22 with seven strikeouts. His stay at Triple-A after being sent back down was almost as short, though. The difference when he returned was marked on and off the field. He had his first look and found a way to slow things down. He went on to hit .275/.322/.413 (.734) the rest of the way. Kyle Seager was up and running.
Since then, we have seen Seager win a Gold Glove Award and become an All-Star. The work put in was never-ending. A “tinkerer” with his swing for most of his career, Seager was never too far from the video room or a hitting coach. From start to finish he had very definite ideas – most rooted in the old school – of what he should be as a hitter. If he was going to play third base, a power position, he would need to get bigger and stronger than what he was at North Carolina. If he was going to be in an RBI spot in the batting order, then batting average and on-base percentage would be worth sacrificing in his mind. Regardless of how RBIs are currently valued, to him, driving in those career-high 101 runs in 2021 was important.
One of the more interesting evolutions we saw with Seager came in the leadership department. There’s no doubt that despite the “aw shucks” demeanor he put forth to the public, you need look no further than the Jered Weaver showdown to see the fire his teammates saw day in and day out.
Still, for years he was reluctant to lead, seeing himself as young in the game regardless of his experience and accomplishments.
Some of my favorite scenes from Seager in the clubhouse were the Sunday conversations he would have with Robinson Canó, a player Seager had long admired before they became teammates. Before Sunday games when the team was home, we would often see the two at Canó’s corner locker – Canó in his chair, Seager sitting on the floor asking questions. A few years later it would be Kyle taking the questions. The sight in the dugout in the years following the Mariners’ “step back” in 2018 was almost comical, with young players jockeying for space next to Seager along the rail during games at T-Mobile Park.
By all accounts, Seager was more than a “lead by example” guy in his final years with the team. While there was friction with the front office, in the clubhouse was a different matter. Seager was first and foremost a teammate.
Even so, Seattle was always a temporary home for Seager, who is North Carolina through and through. The pull of family and home is strong, much stronger than the pull of a possible postseason with another team. That gets left on the table for Seager, but what is gained is much more.
Mariners fans have long claimed Seager as their own with the hope that he would be a career Mariner. That hope appeared to be dashed when the Mariners declined their team option for 2022, making him a free agent. That he won’t play in another uniform is his decision.
Seager’s career comes to an end, his name likely to be etched on Mariners leaderboards for many years to come. Fourth all-time in games, hits, home runs and RBIs, and in great company along with Edgar, Ichiro and Griffey.
His decision to retire may be unexpected. But walking away under his own terms? Well, that is Simply Seager.