Monday, June 17, 2013
SEATTLE — Before Wednesday’s game at Safeco Field, pitcher Danny Farquhar approached Kyle Seager at his locker.
“There’s a guy out there who looks exactly like you!” Farquhar said.
Seager smiled and hurried out of the clubhouse to greet his younger brother, Justin — not only his spitting image in a slightly taller package, but now a fellow member of the Mariners’ organization.
Last week, 21-year-old Justin, a junior corner infielder from UNC Charlotte, was drafted in the 12th round by the Mariners, much to the delight of Kyle. He was closely monitoring the draft on his iPad as he prepared for Seattle’s game with the Yankees.
“It was awesome,” said Kyle, now 25, a third-round pick of the Mariners in 2009. “I was jumping up and down, looking for someone to high-five. It was a very cool moment.”
One that had been replicated a year earlier when yet another Seager brother, Corey, was taken in the first round (No. 18 overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Corey, 19, is playing shortstop with Class A Great Lakes of the Midwest League. Kyle also followed that draft nervously on his iPad, an image that was shown to a national audience — including Jeff and Jody Seager, the parents, back home in Kannapolis, N.C.
“They showed Kyle in the dugout on his iPad,” said Jody Seager. “That brought tears to my eyes. It was cool he was so anxious for Corey. It makes you feel good to see how supportive he is.”
The Seager parents were invited to Seattle this past week both to watch Kyle play and to accompany Justin as he was shown around Safeco Field. That included a stint taking batting practice with other draft picks. Justin quickly signed a contract and has joined the Everett AquaSox — just about the only affiliate in the Mariners’ farm system in which Kyle didn’t precede him.
“My brother’s a great ballplayer, and he’s showed me how to play the right way, so that’s what I’m going to do,” Justin said.
If all three brothers make it to the big leagues, the Seagers would become one of the few three-tiered baseball families, a list that includes the Alous, the Cruzes, the Boyers, the Pacioreks, the Molinas and, of course, the DiMaggios.
“You really can’t put it into words,” said Jeff Seager, an IT operations manager at a bank. “We’re just really, really excited for all three. They’ve worked very hard. They’re self-motivated. They deserve all the credit they get. They put in all the effort, and now they get to reap the rewards.”
Jeff, who played college ball at Farleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, coached all three growing up, “and still to this day, he’ll throw us batting practice,” Kyle said. “He’s the one who taught us all the fundamentals, really introduced us to the game.”
Kyle and the 6-foot-4 Corey were both high-school All-Americans at Northwest Cabarrus, while Justin was something of a late bloomer, stymied by a broken vertebra from weightlifting that wiped out his junior year.
Their childhood was a blur of sporting activities, mainly baseball but also basketball and soccer. Kyle was six years older than Corey and four years older than Justin, so it was the two younger brothers who were usually teammates, while Kyle’s career played out ahead of them.
“They’ve always stuck together and pushed each other, which is really a good thing,” Kyle said. “Both of them have been successful, and both want to be successful and work very hard. It’s a good dynamic.”
Kyle added with a laugh, “I can remember a few basketball games in the driveway that were a little heated. But that’s the normal thing.”
Jody Seager, who teaches P.E. at O’Dell Elementary School in Concord, N.C. — where each of her boys attended — provides one famous family story.
“People see Justin with his hair short and he’s got a little scar there,” she said. “I’ll say, ‘Oh, Kyle threw a brick at his head.’ He told him: ‘Don’t worry, don’t duck. I won’t hit you.’ Hit him square in the head with a brick.
“When your big brother tells you to do something, you listen. And he did.”
That youthful indiscretion is not indicative of the close, supportive relationship among the Seager brothers. Jeff notes proudly how Justin is not at all jealous of the success of his siblings, and how each pulls for the other.
Jody says with a laugh that the boys were destined to be baseball players.
“In their little crib they had a bat and a ball,” she said. “They didn’t have a choice.”
When the Seagers began playing on travel squads, the parents realized that their kids were competitive with the best players around the area.
“And if they didn’t think they were, they worked that much harder to prove they could do it,” she said.
This year, a typical night for the Seager parents included watching the Mariners game on a ROOT sports feed (into the wee hours of the morning if the M’s were playing on the WestCoast), listening to Justin’s UNC Charlotte game on the radio, and following Corey’s minor-league game on the computer.
Now they’ll be scouring the internet to keep up with the AquaSox. The Seagers were delighted to have a second son join the Mariners.
“We think the world of the Mariners as an organization, so that was great,” Jeff said. “We wanted to get him with a good organization, and give him a chance. It’s up to him to go ahead and execute.”
Kyle, meanwhile, is already anticipating being able to work out next winter with both of his brothers for the first time in memory. He trained last offseason with Corey but Justin was off at school.
“We still hit together, but this offseason, we’ll get to do all the running, all the working out, all the hitting and everything together, which will be really special for me,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Jody Seager will watch avidly from afar — with occasional trips to see them play in person — as their sons pursue their careers.
“As parents, it’s incredible,” Jody said. “You can’t explain how excited you are for them to reach their dreams.”