PITTSBURGH -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager got a peek behind the All-Star Game curtain two seasons ago and found the view exhilarating and inspiring, though he left with a twinge of regret.
In 2014, Seager participated in the Futures Game at Minnesota as a top Dodgers prospect and was granted a few extra days off by the club to see his brother Kyle, of the Seattle Mariners, make his All-Star Game debut.
“It was awesome,” Corey Seager said. “It was really fun for me in the Futures Game, and then [Kyle] showed up, and it was really fun. I kind of got to go in on their lunches and stuff like that, so you got to see everybody.
“I was a little shy and really didn’t introduce myself to as many people as I would have liked to, but that’s OK. It was really cool to experience. [Derek] Jeter’s last All-Star Game too, so that was awesome.”
Now Seager stands on the cusp of having the All-Star Game door opened for him. He is closing in on his first midseason honor in his first full season with a sure and steady run of production for nearly three months now.
Seager does not lead the fan vote at shortstop. At last check, he was third behind both Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies and vote-leader Addison Russell of the Chicago Cubs. As of Thursday, Russell’s vote total was double Seager’s.
When it comes to pure statistics, though, Seager’s All-Star credentials are solid. Through play on Sunday, Seager led all National League shortstops in runs scored (50) and hits (89). Story led in home runs (19), RBIs (48) and OPS (.898), but Seager was close behind in homers (16) and OPS (.884). Plus, Seager's strikeout total of 58 was nearly half Story’s total of 104.
Assuming Russell wins the popularity contest, Story and Seager still figure to be headed to San Diego the second week of July.
Seager acknowledges the awkwardness of talking about the upcoming All-Star Game. As a team guy, the showcase game is not his goal. In selfish terms, though, a few days among baseball royalty are hard to resist.
“That’s not a worry right now, but it’s one of those things that is a great accomplishment for anybody,” he said. “That’s special for you and your family. It’s one of those things that is really, really cool.”
By the looks of it, Seager could be a regular fixture at these events for a long time. Having All-Star credentials in his rookie season has been no small feat. Seager has been as steady as the sea on a wind-free day and just as pleasant to observe. His lulls have been kept to a minimum, while his hot streaks have been spectacular at times. He never seems to panic, and on defense, he has been even better than advertised -- not an easy feat for a 6-foot-4 middle infielder.
He showed it last season when he came up in September and earned his way onto the postseason roster with four home runs, 17 RBIs and a .337 batting average. If the daily grind of a full major-league season and the constantly updated scouting reports on him were supposed to expose his few weaknesses, that has not happened yet.
“You always talk about the second year for a young player and how the league adjusts to you,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Corey is continuing to adjust with the league. You see the consistency from a young player, as the league is trying to figure out how to pitch him and get him out. But his consistency for a young player, this just doesn’t happen. It’s not normal.”
Yet it has happened, and with Seager’s confident demeanor, it has not seemed unusual. He went through an adjustment period in mid-April, then went over a bit of a speed bump in the middle of June with a .194 batting average during a nine-game stretch.
But since June 18, Seager has delivered five multi-hit games, including a four-hit game Friday at Pittsburgh that tied a career high.
“That’s pretty much the name of the game: minimize those [downturns] as much as possible so you can always be, I don’t want to say peak, but your normal performance,” Seager said. “Lulls are what you’re always trying to get out of. You’re always worried about them and always working to not go into them. It’s one of those things that is a day-to-day grind.”
Hard work and discipline are one part. Self-confidence also plays a role. Seager knows his game is good enough to get the job done. He has been able to trust what he does well. He has not changed his approach out of panic.
“It’s knowing when something is wrong and trying to not make something of it when something is not wrong. It’s a fine balance,” he said. “You might not get hits for a couple of days, but you know nothing is wrong, so you don’t try to change anything to where it does get off, and then you’re like, ‘Oh man, here we go.’ Then it slopes down further and further.”
If Corey Seager has so much confidence in his game, what is it with social settings? At the 2014 All-Star Game, he said he was standing about an arm’s length from Jeter for a moment. Maybe because Corey Seager didn’t have a uniform on, wasn’t wearing spikes and wasn’t tightening his batting gloves, he froze.
“I was standing from me to you away from Jeter, and I couldn’t say ‘Hey’ to him,” Seager said. “I was just, like, shell-shocked. My dad shook his hand and everything, congratulating him, and I was just blank face. And then he walked away, and I went, ‘How did I not say anything to him?'"
For emphasis, Seager smacked his forehead. To this day, he has not met Jeter.
“Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll be brave enough to say hello to him,” he said.
Somebody might need to explain to the rookie that at this rate, when Corey Seager and Derek Jeter finally meet, the honor could very well be Jeter’s.