Drafted just over two years ago, Rainiers’ infielder Kyle Seager has spent most of this summer packing and unpacking, playing at three levels already (Double A, Triple A and the Major Leagues). The 23-year-old won the 2010 California League batting title with a .345 batting average and led all minor leaguers with 192 hits. He is currently batting .406 in 23 games (101 at-bats) with the Rainiers. Seager talked recently with Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen about his whirlwind career.
TW: You’re a native of North Carolina. Do you still live there?
KS: Yes. I grew up in Kannapolis and now my fiancée and I live in Salisbury, about 15 miles from there.
TW: You were drafted in 2009 after three years at the University of North Carolina and started to play professionally that summer. Do you plan to finish college eventually?
KS: Yes I do. I have a full year to finish. I expect to finish between seasons because it’s impossible to do during the season. When I signed I got a scholarship from the Mariners to help pay for my education.
TW: What’s your major?
KS: Exercise and sports science.
TW: Your first year in professional ball you played one game in Peoria, Ariz., then spent most of the season at low-A level Clinton, Iowa. You ended the season at Single A High Desert, Calif. In 2010 you played in High Desert all year, and now you’re in the Pacific Northwest. None of those places are really close to North Carolina. Has your family gotten to see you play much?
KS: Well, my fiancée has been with me for the past two seasons. The rest of my family has seen me play a couple of times over the past two years.
TW: And this off-season you and your fiancée are planning to be married.
KS: Yes, in December.
TW: You were playing in the College World Series when you were drafted. How many times did UNC make it to the CWS while you were there?
KS: All three years.
TW: How did your teams do?
KS: In my freshman year we finished second, in my sophomore year we were third, and we were in the fourth to sixth range my junior year.
TW: One of your classmates was also drafted by the Mariners in 2009.
KS: That was Dustin Ackley. We came into UNC together and roomed together our first year.
TW: Were you expecting to be drafted by the Mariners?
KS: The draft is crazy. You never know what will happen. I had talked to the Mariners a little bit beforehand, and I knew they had come to see a couple of games.
TW: How long after you were drafted did you sign?
KS: Because we were in the CWS when I was drafted I couldn’t talk about signing until that was over. I signed the week after that (end of June), and got to play most of the season. It was good to get started.
TW: Then this year on June 23, just about two years after being drafted, you got the call to Triple A. What was that like?
KS: It was really exciting. It was just after the Cal League All Star Game that I got the call from my manager while I was at home. We didn’t have practice that day so I wondered what was wrong. He said “Start packing, you’re going up to Tacoma tomorrow.”
TW: Then you spent about two weeks with the Rainiers before your next move. How did you find out you had been promoted to Seattle on July 6?
KS: It was an unbelievable opportunity to go up and get your feet wet. Brownie (Rainiers’ manager Daren Brown) called me into his office while we were playing in Colorado Springs. He said I’d need a sports coat and to get packed. I met the team in Anaheim and also played in Toronto and Seattle.
TW: You played in seven games with Seattle, and got your first Major League hit on July 10 in Anaheim. Who was the pitcher?
KS: It was a single off of Dan Haren. That was really exciting for me.
TW: Dustin Ackley was already playing with the Mariners when you got there. Did having him there make your first few games a little more comfortable?
KS: It was nice to have someone there I had known since I was 11. I also knew a lot of the guys from spring training.
TW: You’ve played second and third in Tacoma. What position did you play with the Mariners?
KS: Third base.
TW: What positions did you play while you were coming up?
KS: I played just shortstop in high school, and second and third in college. I feel comfortable at all the positions. It’s good to give yourself as many options as possible because you never know what the team will need.
TW: Do you feel you contribute more with your offense or your defense?
KS: You like to contribute both, but offense won’t always be there. You won’t get a hit every day, so I know I can do other things that will help the team win. Taking away a run with defense helps the team as much as scoring one.
TW: What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
KS: Getting called up to the Mariners. That was amazing. You do everything to get that shot.
TW: When you knew you were going up who did you call first?
KS: My fiancée, then my parents. My parents and brothers and my fiancée all got to see me play my first game in Anaheim.
TW: What differences did you notice most while you were playing with Seattle?
KS: The game is crisper, and the pitchers have a better idea of what they’re doing. They are just all around smarter, and I had more adjustments to make.
TW: What do you see yourself doing after your professional career is through?
KS: Hopefully I’ll play forever, but (realistically) I’d like to finish school. My major could lead me into a physical therapy career or some direction like that.