Seager motors from NASCAR country to bigs
Stomping Grounds: Dodgers rookie a product of strong baseball family roots
LOS ANGELES -- Corey Seager comes from deep in the heart of NASCAR country.
Kannapolis, N.C., is the hometown of Corey, Justin and Kyle Seager. But it's known as the hometown of the racing Earnhardts, a short drive from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The Seager Brothers have, however, put Kannapolis on the baseball map in a big way. Kyle is the All-Star third baseman of the Seattle Mariners, middle sibling Justin is in the Mariners' farm system and Corey, the 21-year-old baby of the trio, has apparently displaced veteran Jimmy Rollins as the starting shortstop for the Dodgers as they open the National League Division Series Friday against the Mets.
Tinkering with autos was never Corey's thing. For him, it was always baseball. And the shoes.
"I wore cleats until I went to kindergarten, and they wouldn't let me wear them anymore and apparently I bawled my eyes out for days just because they wouldn't let me wear cleats to school," Seager said. "I wore cleats everywhere, literally, but they wouldn't let me wear them. I don't even remember it, but I've seen pictures and they tell me. They said I bawled my eyes out."
Seager, a first-round Draft pick in 2012 and a Major Leaguer only since a Sept. 3 callup, said the best way to judge his adjustment to the West Coast is to look at his feet.
"When I played at [Class A Advanced] Rancho Cucamonga [an hour east of Dodger Stadium] two years ago, I had a little culture shock coming to California," he recalled. "I had never really seen people wear flip-flops everywhere. That was a huge difference for me. Now I'm a huge fan of them."
Footwear might have been the only adjustment Seager has needed to make. He shot through the Minor League system, living up to the high expectations of bloodlines and a $2.35 million bonus. His hot bat in September left manager Don Mattingly with no choice but to play Seager over the respected Rollins.
That came as no surprise to the starting third baseman of the Mariners.
"I remember watching his 8-, 9-, 10-year-old games and he was always a little bit different," Kyle said of Corey. "He always had a really good arm and was always a little bit bigger and he just continued to work hard. He always had the ability to slow down the game. He's an extremely hard worker and I think it's pretty rare that a guy that works really hard that also can slow the game down and has the ability to kind of breathe like he does. He's pretty special and he's going to do good things for a long time, I think.
"The funny thing about him is I remember getting called up in 2011 and he was still in high school. Going back that offseason and we're hitting and stuff and I'm showing him things I'd learned and I can specifically remember showing him some stuff and him just getting it. And then him being better than me right then. You're kind of a little frustrated that your high school brother is already better than you and you're in the big leagues, but he's got a lot of natural ability and he works extremely hard and picks up on things really well."
Off the field, as well. Seager has been the model rookie, speaking softly -- if at all -- knowing his place, earning clubhouse respect in what could have been an awkward position takeover. He assigns some of the credit for that to Kyle.
"I probably have to say he's helped me on the maturity side of it," Corey said. "He's helped me with how to live alone, take care of myself -- like what to do in the mornings before games, what's the way to be prepared, that kind of stuff."
With a six-year age gap, however, Corey never played with Kyle and is closer to 23-year-old Justin. He recalls beginning his baseball career as his middle brother's teammate.
"I started when I was 3 with Justin on his team, a first assembly team," Corey said. "You couldn't start until you were 4, but they snuck me in there because of my brother."
Dad, who has worked for IBM and Ally Bank, coached when they were young. They grew up on a 10-acre family farm, with a couple of cows and pigs that were raised for food. The boys did the chores.
"We had to clean stalls and fix fences and that stuff," Corey said. "I think it helped teach us about responsibility."
Corey and Justin went to Kyle's high school games and their passion for baseball intensified. Justin's progress was interrupted when he broke his back in a weightlifting class and missed his junior season of high school.
"He gives us all the credit in the world," Corey said of Justin. "He's never been bitter towards us. We have a great relationship."