SAN DIEGO -- Talk about your professional game face.
Corey Seager, the 21-year-old Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop with a bottomless pit of talent, said he would take in all his first Opening Day had to offer before getting down to business quickly on Monday.
There were skydivers, a military jet flyover, fog machines and an American flag that nearly covered the entire outfield. But once the flag was rolled back up again, so was Seager’s retreat into the pomp and circumstance of it all.
Two batters into Monday’s season opener at San Diego, Seager cracked a double to the left-center-field wall that echoed with a thud when it hit off the padding. Nothing like an RBI and an extra base hit in your first at-bat of your first full season in the big leagues.
Seager was asked beforehand how he would handle himself Monday.
“I don’t know, I’m excited. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting,” he said. “This is a cool time in your career, so just to try to soak it in as much as you can. But as soon as the game starts you have to kind of cut it off and move on.”
Talk about being true to your word.
Despite being listed officially as a rookie, Seager did get important experience when he played in 27 games with 98 at-bats with the Dodgers last season. He then appeared in the postseason, even batting third in the lineup for one National League Division Series game, and second in two others. (A position player is considered a rookie if he has not had 130 at-bats or 45 days on the active roster).
Manager Dave Roberts might be new, but he knew enough about Seager to make a bold lineup move on Opening Day, even if Seager missed a large chunk of time this spring with a sprained left knee.
“It's huge,” Roberts said of Seager’s experience last season. “I can't speak to being a 21-year-old player in the big leagues, let alone in the postseason. He has had success at this level. He hit third in the postseason on the biggest stage. For him to have done that, this shouldn't be that big of a deal. But there will be butterflies for everyone, and Corey is no different.”
Seager is always prepared, so he had a plan for the butterflies, too.
“You know, it’s exciting in the beginning,” Seager said. “You want the adrenaline, you want that excitement, but it’s got to get cut off. Hopefully it can get cut off sooner than later.”
Nobody wants a sprained knee to interrupt your spring training, but maybe it helped Seager to take his mind off the expectations ahead and create a sort of micro-focus heading into the season.
“That was a worry in spring,” Seager said. “You always want your ABs, you always want to get as many as you can. I don’t feel I got short-cutted, but it was faster, it was more rapid, so we’ll see.”
As for being the Dodgers’ permanent No. 2 hitter, it looks like he still will have more work to do in order to convince Roberts that the move should be permanent.
“You know, that remains to be seen, but I like him against right-handed pitching,” Roberts said. “I like him against left-handed pitching. I think he can handle it, being at the top of the order. Can he settle in there? I don’t see why he couldn’t.”