Drayer: Now Mariners longest-tenured player, Kyle Seager embracing role to help rebuild along
This time a year ago, Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager had much more veteran company in the clubhouse.
Offseason additions Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnación and Tim Beckham, the longest tenured Mariner in Félix Hernández and a number of others on the pitching staff were there to help shoulder any veteran duties that might arise. This spring, however, it is Seager who has logged the most years with the team, and the fellow vets are few and far between.
“It’s completely different, and it was different last year,” Seager observed Wednesday. “You have to embrace the change. We understand the business aspect of it, if something is not working you’ve got to make a change and do the best for the Mariners.”
Entering his 10th year with the club, Seager knows what he is in for. He knows there will be growing pains and bumps in the road with such a young team. He knows his dream of making the playoffs will likely not be realized in 2020. Going into a rebuild season is not ideal for a veteran, but he is a realist. He understands why the current direction was chosen. One of his best memories as a Mariner is an ‘almost,’ and that as much as anything perhaps best illustrates the situation the Mariners found themselves in trying to continue to bandage a roster in hopes of making a postseason.
“It was a fun year, a great year,” he said of 2016, when the Mariners were in playoff contention until the night before their final game. “I will never forget the last game of the season. In the fifth, sixth inning we got the standing ovation. That is still one of the coolest moments I have had in a Mariners uniform. The reality of the situation is we didn’t do what we were supposed to do there. You can understand the rebuild. If it’s not working you build from the ground up.”
And build they have. The Mariners like their young players; they now need to get them experience. Seager understands that he can play an important role in their development at the big league level, as others like Jack Wilson, Raúl Ibañez and Willie Bloomquist did for him.
“There’s going to be a lot of guys in the clubhouse that don’t know things,” he said. “They are going to ask questions and you have to have someone who can answer them. I think that is something that you can help guys breathe a little bit because this is everybody’s dream. All the guys have been the best guy everywhere they have been, most have not had failure. Once that happens there’s a lot of growth, a lot of learning there. My role is to help all the guys grow, help the rebuild along. That benefits me too because if we improve a lot and we get better quickly, that’s great for me because I want to win.”
The bulk of what Seager can do to help move the team forward will be done on the field. Both his offseason work and location changed with Seager, his wife Julie and their three children spending this winter in the Seattle area, moving their home base from North Carolina to Issaquah as their oldest child entered kindergarten.
“Full-fledged Seattle guy,” he said with a laugh. “It was definitely different. You hear about the weather obviously and I have been extremely spoiled being here in the summer and the summer is perfect and I found that out the hard way.”
The rainiest of Seattle winters is still worth what it takes to keep a baseball family together once the kids enter school. Many have homes in one place, make visits to spring training and don’t join dad in his baseball city until school is out. That is not what the Seager’s wanted.
“There’s also something nice to be said about being grounded somewhere and being able to actually settle in some place,” he said.
As for the offseason routine, much like the Mariners’ rebuild, Seager’s training for last season was about tearing down. Now with his body in better shape thanks to diet and a routine that focused more on flexibility and mobility, this offseason was more about building up.
“I was able to implement a little bit more where the year before was more cleaning everything out of me. Basically getting rid of all the junk I had accumulated. This year I was able to actually kind of lift a little more, get back into the gym as I like a little more.”
While he won’t say how many pounds he has put on, in person you can see the difference. Skinny Seager showed up in camp last February. This version looks a little closer to what we saw before but still leaner, and certainly able to move better.
“The injury last year was frustrating but it didn’t mean that you couldn’t still continue to grow,” he said, referencing the hand issue that required surgery and delayed his 2019 season debut. “The second half was encouraging that the body felt better throughout the season. I didn’t get as stiff and tight and have the aches and pains that I had in the past.”
Seager has done what he can to prepare for the 2020 season and is set help the young players start their big league journeys as well. One thing this group should enjoy along the way on that journey is a more even playing field in Houston, something Seager believes was a long time coming.
“We’ve known about it for awhile,” he said about the Astros’ cheating. “It was openly discussed in our locker room. It was something that we talked about. There was even confronting them on the field about stuff. That stuff always had happened, it never turned into a fight or anything like that but there was always things.
“You talk about really fighting an uphill battle there,” he continued. “They were more talented than us and had the benefits we didn’t. It was a tough one to take and not a good look for baseball.”
That will be for baseball to continue to sort out. One less thing on what should be a very full plate for Kyle Seager in 2020.