GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Not all left-handed swings are created equal, not even the ones that belong to Corey Seager.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' rising superstar already possesses one of the prettiest lefty strokes in franchise history, yet the 22-year-old continues to grapple with a haunting situation when he is unable to make a consistent sweeping arc from one shoulder to the other.
Contemplating the situation, a "pfft" of exasperation escapes Seager's lips. He is baffled by the cruelty of it all.
"I really can't explain it; it drives me insane," Seager says, sweaty despite the cool morning. It is almost 8:30 a.m. and he has been hard at work for nearly two hours. "That's the one that literally just irks me."
Seager, you see, cannot hit a golf ball off a tee with a left-handed driver. It's not that he can't hit it well, he can't hit it at all. "I just can't do it," he says.
Seager contemplates the subtle difference in swings paths. For baseball he reaches out as if he is measuring the height of a child. For golf he seems to be petting the head of a dog. He sighs.
Golf has something on Seager that baseball does not. Golf can humble him. Golf can tease him. Golf can make him look awkward.
And in a lot of ways, Seager needs golf so he continues to play it ... right-handed. For him, the course is quiet. The challenge is mesmerizing. The 14 sticks and the small dimpled sphere help him to take his mind off the pressures ahead, the expectations that his own dynamic rookie season helped create.
A popular question around baseball is: How can Seager manage to top his impossibly electric debut season with the Dodgers? Seager knows this debate exists. He has a plan.
Seager will, in fact, bring the serenity of the golf course to the baseball field. Well, at least all the parts of golf that have nothing to do with using a left-handed driver.
"I think it's just once you get back on the field, that's your comfort zone," Seager said. "That's where we all thrive and where we're comfortable. Once you're out there, it all goes away. You're just competing that night."
You see 50,000 screaming fans. Seager sees palm trees, wisps of clouds blowing overhead. The green grass below.
"You're not worried about the next day, you're not worried about the next week, you're not worried about the next month, you're just out there trying to win that night and at the end of the day the numbers will be there," Seager says. "It's a long year if you're trying to worry about numbers. ... It can really wear on you."
The mental grind is real, but so is the physical one. Seager admitted that, immediately after last season ended, defeated in the cramped quarters of the Wrigley Field clubhouse last October.
Strength and conditioning was an offseason obligation. But so was being a kid again once he got away from the pressures of the high-profile, billion-dollar industry he took by storm.
Seager spent a winter playing video games, watching basketball on television and poring over the show times at the local cineplex. "Doctor Strange" was his favorite movie this winter. He also indulged himself in the bad habits of other friends his age.
"I still eat like a 22-year-old, that's for damn sure," he said, trying to embrace irresponsibility. It sounded forced.
"Between the snacks and still going to the movies and being excited for popcorn and Icees, and just stuff like that, where it's still fun and exciting to do that and hang out with friends, there are definitely times when [being young] still comes out in you. But it's one of those things that there has to be a common balance between the two."
These steps in an effort to find balance are not foreign to Seager. As in many conversations about his game, the topic manages to work its way back toward his older trailblazing brother Kyle of the Seattle Mariners.
Corey Seager is appreciative that he is able to follow Kyle's lead. How do you avoid a sophomore slump, a year after finishing third in the National League MVP race? Ask Kyle, whose OPS has risen in each of his five full seasons, other than a miniscule dip in 2015.
How does Corey Seager improve on a rookie-of-the-year season when he hit 27 home runs with 72 RBIs and struck out 133 times? Time to once again follow Kyle, who hit 30 home runs, with 99 RBIs and struck out only 108 times for the Mariners last season.
And to think, there was a time when Corey Seager found it miserable to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
"I almost didn't like it when I was younger," Corey Seager said. "In high school you see the banners of him everywhere. You go on recruiting trips to Carolina and he was all over the place. It was one of those things that before, you didn't actually appreciate what he had done for you.
"Now that you have gone through it, you've experienced what he has done for you, it makes it that much more special that he could blaze the trail. He was so helpful in doing it and never hesitated to help you when you did ask, even though he had his own job to do. It was nice."
It is not just a heartwarming story. It is an example Corey Seager still is using. He admits that one way to rise to the expectations of the high bar he set for himself in 2016 is to remember how he managed to rise to the bar Kyle set at Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, North Carolina.
"He has always been a role model, head down, go, stay in the shadows, keep your nose clean, all that stuff," Corey said. "He's always set that example so you didn't want to ruin your name and you didn't want to ruin his name. It's not just yours, it's the family name."
"He's special, not only in the ability to put the bat on the ball, but just the head and the heartbeat. ... There is really nothing, to me, that Corey can't do."Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager
And now it is the Dodgers' name as well. Manager Dave Roberts could not be more pleased with a young, capable shortstop who has so many more prime years in front of him.
"He's special, not only in the ability to put the bat on the ball, but just the head and the heartbeat," Roberts said. "All that stuff just plays to a veteran. Then you mix in the skill set. There is really nothing, to me, that Corey can't do."
Don't just ask his manager, ask his teammates. Chase Utley figured to be elsewhere this season once the Dodgers acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe. But the Dodgers brought back Utley as well, mentioning his value in the clubhouse while doing so. His value as a continued mentor to Seager is perhaps the biggest worth of Utley's $2 million contract, plus incentives.
"He's got a pretty good base that he has started, but for him, the one thing about him, just by talking to him is that he wants to continue to improve and he feels that there are a lot of aspects to his game that can get better," Utley said. "And it's scary to think about, but if that's the way he thinks then it's probably true."
Roberts revealed, to raised eyebrows, recently that Seager claimed to not have his "A swing" in 2016, all while taking the league by storm. "That's pretty exciting for all of us," Roberts said, the gleam in his eye probably focused on what that "A swing" actually would look like.
Utley watches Seager now and it reminds him of when he was starting to put together his own fruitful career in Philadelphia. "But he started at a little bit younger age," says Utley, reminding himself that his teammate is only 22.
Seager might be young, but he has a laid-back demeanor off the field and an unrelenting one on it that belies his age.
"I've run across a few guys that have a similar demeanor, but they are simply a little bit older," Utley said. "You don't really see that at his age. I know that I have said that a lot, but it is really the way he handles himself. And I'm not even talking about on the field, just being around here, being with [the media], being around just on a daily basis. I would say he's a good five or six years ahead of what you would anticipate."
Utley said he would have kept a close eye on Seager this season regardless of where he was playing. Now he gets to watch from the field some nights, from the bench on others, while sharing a dividing partition in the locker room every single day.
"Chase coming back is huge for me, getting just another year of experience with him," Seager said.
Eventually, though, Utley will be off to retirement, leaving Seager to figure it out on his own. Maybe one day down the road, it will be golf tips that Utley supplies Seager. Or maybe golf will never be Seager's game.
"But I want it to be, that's the problem," Seager said. "I dig down deep and want it to be there and it just hasn't clicked yet."
His search for an "A swing" crosses multiple platforms. Don't bet against him.