By Mike Citron
One of the steadiest Mariners the last two seasons, third baseman Kyle Seager took things to a new level in the first half of 2014, batting .279 and leading the M’s in home runs (15) and RBI (63). Named to the All-Star team for the first time, Seager entered the game in the 6th inning and went 0-for-2. The Grand Salami caught up with Kyle at the All-Star Game in Minnesota in July.
GRAND SALAMI: What does it mean to you to be an All-Star for the first time this year?
KYLE SEAGER: It’s something you dream about growing up. You want to play in the big leagues, you want to play in All-Star games. For it to actually be a reality to play in the All-Star Game is a humbling experience for me, but at the same time it’s very exciting. There’s validation to playing good baseball and helping the team win, but making the All-Star team is something that’s pretty cool and that I’m really happy about, obviously. It doesn’t get much better than this.
GS: Where were you when you got the news that you’d made the All-Star team?
SEAGER: I was walking out of Babies R Us with my wife and son, carrying diapers, when I saw that Lloyd [McClendon] was calling me. I put down the diapers and answered the phone. I’m usually not much on personal accolades, I can take them or leave them, they usually make me more uncomfortable than anything, but this is an honor that’s extremely exciting for me.
GS: Did it make it more special for you that you made the All-Star team with three of your teammates (Felix Hernández, Robinson Cano, and Fernando Rodney)?
SEAGER: It makes it easier to be here with guys that I know well. This is the fourth year I’ve played with Felix; I’ve gotten to know Cano well this year. I’ve just been following the other guys and getting the lay of the land. It is amazing being in the locker room with some of the best players in the world and getting to talk to them.
GS: The Mariners had a good first half. What do you think the team needs to do to stay in the pennant race in the second half?
SEAGER: We’ve been playing very well. We had a few down years, but it’s a different coaching staff this year and a bit of a new team. To have four guys make the All-Star Game is a great sign for the future. We’re starting to get a little national recognition, which is good. We have such a good fan base. Our fans are great, the stadium has really been loud lately. It’s been a lot of fun.
GS: Any thoughts on the division-leading Oakland A’s?
SEAGER: They’re good, they’ve been at the top for a couple of years now. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, play hard and good things will happen. We play Oakland a bunch of times in the second half, so if we stay within striking distance we’ll have a shot at the division.
GS: How has Lloyd McClendon been in his first season managing the M’s?
SEAGER: He’s done a great job—he brought in a different attitude right from the start of spring training. We have a young team, but we don’t use it an excuse. [McClendon] expects us to play well, to win. He’s been phenomenal.
GS: The hitting coach is also new this year. How has Howard Johnson been?
SEAGER: HoJo’s been great. We’ve spent a lot of time working with him on our approach and hitting in the cages. He’s got a lot of knowledge from his great playing career and he’s always happy to share.
GS: How has Cano been as a teammate?
SEAGER: Great. It’s been real easy to get to know him. His demeanor and the way he goes about his business, he’s extremely approachable. Outgoing and very open to talking.
GS: What’s it like playing behind a pitcher as good as Felix Hernández?
SEAGER: He’s really a special talent. He gets guys out very quickly and he has such a good temperament. He gets strikeouts, but they’re not long at-bats, they’re like 3-4 pitch strikeouts. So you’re never really standing around out there. He’s everything you could want in a big-game pitcher.
GS: You have to like your chances if you get to a one-game Wild Card playoff with Felix on the mound.
SEAGER: If we get in that situation, we’ll take our chances going up against anybody. You throw that guy and you feel really good about your team.
GS: It’s been thirteen years since Seattle has made the postseason. What do you think the atmosphere will be like if the Mariners get to the playoffs this season?
SEAGER: I think it’ll be great. The whole city was electric last year for the Seahawks. It’s really been great the last couple of weeks, great crowds at Safeco, great fan support. Seattle is a great city and we get more people coming out when we’re winning.
GS: I know you grew up rooting for the Yankees, so it must be something of a big deal for you to be in the All-Star Game in Derek Jeter’s last season.
SEAGER: It’s very cool. [Jeter] was my guy growing up, he was always my favorite player. To have a small part in his legacy and be a teammate of his for his last All-Star Game is something I don’t take lightly.
GS: You’re not only a first-time All-Star, but a first-time father this year, with your son Crue being born earlier this year. How has that been for you?
SEAGER: It’s been a lot of fun interacting with him. Being able to have him on the field for the Home Run Derby was pretty special for me.
GS: Your wife Julie is on Twitter, but you’re not on there. Any chance you’ll join Twitter any time soon?
SEAGER: I don’t have a Twitter. I don’t think I have anything to say that’s important enough to put on there, plus I don’t think I want to read all the bad things people say about me. I just steer clear of it and my wife can buffer it for me, tell me the good stuff and keep the bad stuff out of sight.
GS: You’ve been teammates with Dustin Ackley for a long time—in college at UNC, in the minor leagues, and here with the Mariners—so you probably know him better than anybody. Do you have any idea what he’s thinking with that crazy beard?
SEAGER: The beard (laughs). Yeah, it’s getting crazy. It’s getting out there. He’s at least starting to trim the sides of it now, so that’s good. But it’s something he’s been doing for a while now. We’ve been making fun of him for moving up to Michigan [in the offseason] and it seems he’s taken it to heart. He seems to like [the beard], though.
GS: Any idea why he started growing the beard?
SEAGER: It’s pretty cold in the winter in Michigan, so I think he’s just trying to stay warm. He’s a pretty skinny guy, so he needs to keep warm.
GS: Any butterflies at the All-Star Game?
SEAGER: No issues with nerves with the actual game, but I was a little nervous meeting some of the other All-Stars. During the regular season we don’t interact too much with players on the other teams, so getting to know some of these guys a little more personally has been really cool for me.
GS: Fernando Rodney has an interesting ritual he goes through whenever he closes out a game this year. Have you gotten involved in the arrow-slinging yet?
SEAGER: No, not yet. Its probably the most fun celebration I’ve seen, though. You see some guys untuck their shirts and do their little handshakes. Rodney takes it to the next level and it’s been a lot of fun. Rodney’s given us tips, pointers on shooting the arrow, but the rest of us can’t do it like he does it. He’s got the technique down. I haven’t shot the arrow yet, but I have shot real arrows.
GS: So where do Rodney’s arrows go?
SEAGER: I don’t really know. I know they leave the stadium and they go far, but I’m not real sure where they go. The key for Rodney is to have good aim. You’ve gotta get a full draw, while also making sure you don’t shoot the arrow too low and hit somebody in the stands.
GS: What was it like when Rodney was shooting the arrow when he was on the opposing team?
SEAGER: Well, you don’t like it because it means you just lost! You don’t want to lose. If you’re on the other team you don’t want him shooting that arrow because it means you lost the game and it probably also means you made an out late in the game.
GS: This year’s All-Star Game was special for your family—not only did you make the AL squad, but your brother Corey (a shortstop in the Dodgers’ organization) got to play in the Futures Game.
SEAGER: Yeah, that was great for Corey and it was really awesome that the Dodgers let him stay for the All-Star Game so he could see me play. I guess he had an off-day the day after the Futures Game, so he wasn’t gonna miss too much anyway. A really nice move by the Dodgers.