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November 5, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Kyle Seager talks about winning his first Gold Glove

Kyle Seager’s Gold Glove award was earned. It was a product of practice and preparation. It was a result of using  instruction to lead to improvement.

When the Mariners took him in the third round of the 2008 draft, they didn’t necessarily envision him as their every day third baseman of the future.

He was a second baseman for much of his time at the University of North Carolina and built like one. And with then-No. 2 overall pick and college teammate Dustin Ackley being converted to second base, he likely wasn’t going to be a second baseman for the Mariners. During his time in the minor leagues, he played second base, shortstop and third base as the organization stressed versatility. Some scouts envisioned him as a good-hitting utility player.

But after Chone Figgins flopped at third base in 2011, a spot opened up for Seager. He grabbed a hold of it, made it his and hasn’t let it go, becoming an all-star for the first time this season.

Always a solid and consistent hitter, Seager’s defense was a work in progress. He didn’t have a typically big arm of most third baseman and the quick reactions of the position were vastly different than his time spent at the middle infield positions.

He made his mistakes early on – he made 13 errors in 2012 and 15 in 2013.

But the hours of ground balls and the extensive work with infield coach Chris Woodward this season culminated in Seager’s first Gold Glove award, beating out Oakland’s Josh Donaldson and Texas’ Adrian Beltre.

“This means the world to me,” he said on a conference call. “It’s a tremendous honor. This is one of the awards where you put a lot of hard work and effort in, and when you win it, you almost can’t believe it. It’s hard to put into words right now especially with the amount of quality third baseman around the league.”

Beltre was a third baseman that Seager admired and watched as he transitioned to the position.

“For me, the gold standard has always been Beltre,” Seager said. “I think the world of him. I think he’s phenomenal. Just getting to be in the same division as him and watch him, I can’t imitate the things that he does. But the consistency that he makes plays is really fun for me to watch.”

When mentioned that he beat out Beltre for the award this year, Seager chuckled.

“That’s something that’s great,” he said. “I can’t even think about that aspect. I just like being mentioned in the same conversation as him.”

Seager’s efforts to improve defensively have been noticeable during spring training and before games. This results didn’t come over night. It’s been building with each extra ground ball he’s taken off the fungo bat of Woodward.

“It was definitely a different confidence this year,” Seager said. “I always worked hard to improve defensively. Woody really changed my thinking a little bit and changed my approach a little bit. He got me thinking about some different mechanical things. And that’s the way my mind works. I like trying to make the mechanical adjustments. And if you put yourself in better position to succeed more often, it just becomes easier.”

Woodward understood how to reach Seager.

“Kyle is a very cerebral type of player who has an enviable calmness about him,” Woodward said via e-mail. “So he was able to make the necessary adjustments physically while understanding exactly why we were making the adjustments and be able to do it in games right away.”

A big change came on ground balls that weren’t purely reactionary, instead where a decision needed to be made.

“It was a noticeable difference for me on the chopping ground balls where you might get an in between-hop,” Seager said. “Last year, I might just take that in-between hop or back up and get a longer hop and put myself in a bad physical position.”

Now, he attacks those balls and dictates the hop for himself.

“We discussed from day one how to make plays easier, particularly in coming in on balls,” Woodward said. “Once he understood the techniques he really took off and it actually led to his reading balls off the bat better side to side.”

Seager texted Woodward multiple times to thank him for helping win the award.

“He helped me out tremendously,” Seager said. “I found a little while ago about the award and it was really hard for me not to just call him right then. He texted me when he found out and congratulated me and I wanted to make sure I thanked him a lot.”

But seeing Seager succeed and thrive at third base was the biggest reward for Woodward. He was just a willing teacher, while Seager soaked in the instruction and put in the hours of work to improve.

“He is the most efficient third baseman in the game today,” Woodward said. “He has no wasted movement and he still constantly critiques himself even after plays he makes by telling me: ‘I should have take a better angle, or I should have come to get that last hop.’ He has slowed down one of the most difficult positions on the field.”

 

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