Seager has developed golden touch at third base
Mariners' third baseman wins first Gold Glove Award
SEATTLE -- For Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, winning his first Rawlings Gold Glove Award is something special. And to beat out four-time winner Adrian Beltre for the honor? Well, that part almost leaves him speechless.
"For me, the gold standard has always been Beltre," Seager said Wednesday from North Carolina, where he's vacationing with family. "I think the world of him. He's phenomenal. To get to watch him in the same division has been great. I can't imitate what he does, but just [try for] the consistency of what he does."
So to be ranked ahead of the Rangers standout this season?
"I can't even really think about that aspect," Seager said. "I just like to be put in the same conversation with him, honestly."
Seager not only was in the conversation this year, he was named Tuesday as the Mariners' first Gold Glove winner since Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez in 2010. Beltre and Oakland's Josh Donaldson were the other two American League finalists at third base, but Seager won the trophy in a process based 75 percent on votes by AL managers and coaches and 25 percent on a defensive-metrics formula.
"This means the world to me," Seager said. "This is a tremendous honor. This is one of those awards where you put in a lot of hard work and effort and when you win it, you can't really believe it. It's hard to put into words right now, especially with the number of quality third basemen in the league."
Seager was regarded more as an offensive force in his initial years in the Majors, but took a big step forward defensively in his third full season as a starter. Initially drafted as a second baseman out of North Carolina, he played third in just 50 of his 269 Minor League games before getting promoted to Seattle midway through the 2011 season.
But the Mariners had Dustin Ackley -- who was the first-round pick the same year (2009) Seager was selected in the third round -- working at second base and found a spot for him at third instead. And he not only stuck at that position, he's now made himself into one of the game's premier glove men at the hot corner.
"There were a lot of footwork and things I needed to clean up," Seager said. "It's a different position than I was used to playing. A little more reactionary. Physically being in good position when the ball is being pitched, that's something I worked a lot on."
Seager was quick to credit first-year infield coach Chris Woodward with helping him improve his footwork and positioning tremendously in 2014.
"It was definitely a different confidence this year," he said. "I'd always tried to be good defender and worked hard at it, but Woody kind of changed my thinking and approach and got me thinking about some mechanical things. That's kind of how my mind works. If you put yourself in better position mechanically, that helps. It was a noticeable difference on chopped balls where you get in-between hops. That was probably the main difference for me."
After earning his first AL All-Star invitation, leading the club with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs, setting a club third-base record with a .981 fielding percentage with just eight errors in 422 total chances and seeing his defensive metrics take a dramatic jump, Seager insisted there's still plenty to work on to improve his game on both sides of the ball.
And his ultimate goal continues to be helping Seattle land a playoff berth for the first time since 2001 and seeing how far the team can go in the postseason after the Mariners made a 16-win improvement to 87-75.
"You can look back and realize how great a year it was and the jump you made," said the 27-year-old. "There are so many positives you can take away. But playing 162 [games] and losing by one game is a tough pill to swallow. You look at what the Royals did, getting in on the Wild Card and the run they went on, and the Giants as well. There's a lot to be proud of, but that just means we're closer to what will ultimately be a successful year."
And for Seager? He has one more thing to be proud of now, a shiny Gold Glove trophy that will soon find a place in his offseason home in Salisbury, N.C.
"I have a little man cave in my house upstairs," he said. "It'll be smack dab in the middle somewhere."