by Katie Woo
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Just like every student needs a teacher, every rookie needs a veteran.
Luckily for Corey Seager, he had an entire clubhouse of them.
While there’s no denying the pure talent of the Dodgers shortstop — he was the unanimous National League Rookie of the Year last season — there was an underlying factor in his success that can’t be calculated on paper.
“We’ve had a veteran clubhouse presence since I came in 2015,” said Seager, who debuted in the majors late that season. “They laid down the law, and they let you know what they expected out of you.”
Seager credits the majority of his success to the plethora of veterans that made up the Dodgers clubhouse. When asked which veterans held the biggest presence, he mentioned Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Utley first, then quickly pointed it was a team effort.
“It literally wasn’t just the one guy,” he said. “It was everybody that was on top of everybody at all times.
“For all the young guys that came up last year it was the exact same thing,” he added. “It was, ‘This is how we do it, this is what you need to do, you gotta get on board with this.’ That’s a big contributor, those guys laying down the law like that.”
Seager, whose 193 hits led the Dodgers last season, notched a Silver Slugger award and his first All-Star Game selection on top of his Rookie of the Year award. His .308 batting average ranked seventh in the league, his 26 homers set a franchise record for most home runs by a shortstop, and he set other records for a Dodgers rookie shortstop: hits, doubles, extra-base hits and total bases. He also led all major league rookies in games played, hits, runs, doubles and walks. He tied Colorado’s Trevor Story for most RBIs by a rookie last season (72).
Provided Seager keeps his repertoire of offense and defense, the shortstop could follow legends of both the present and the past. A year after winning the NL Rookie of the Year, Bryant was named the NL MVP. Boston star Dustin Pedroia also accomplished that feat, claiming the the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2007 and the AL MVP in 2008. So did Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard in 2005 and 2006. Another notable to do that? Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982 and 1983.
The comparison to Ripken doesn’t stop there either. On the night in 1995 he set the record for consecutive games played, Ripken gave a speech where he gave thanks to many. But perhaps the biggest praise went to Eddie Murray, the Orioles veteran that Ripken credited with showing him “how to play this game, day in and day out.”
The praise echoes Seager’s sentiments for the veterans that have paved the way for him.
“The expectation and the reputation of being a big prospect was out in front of him and I think he far exceeded what anyone expected of him last year,” said Justin Turner, who as the team’s starting third baseman has become quite used to the reliable Seager on his left. “We knew he was a really good player, and he went above and beyond. He truly is an All-Star.”
Turner, an eight-year-veteran who has seen his fair share of shortstops, says the one thing Seager offers that others don’t is his size. Seager is a sturdy 6-foot-4 feet and weighs 215 pounds.
“He’s not your normal small, athletic bounce-around shortstop,” Turner said, “but he covers a lot of ground, gets to a lot of balls. He has a great arm and really plays above-average defense.”
Another difference, perhaps, is his humbleness towards the game.
“He just wants to play baseball,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He just wants to blend in with the teammates and win baseball games.”
The notoriety may be new, but Seager seemingly hasn’t let any of his achievements go to his head.
As he gets ready to turn 23 in April, he is still looking to improve his swing. He said that at times last year he was unsatisfied and not at the positions he wanted to be.
“I’m still trying to figure it out, trying to repeat it as much as possible,” he said. “Balls fall, sometimes they don’t fall, numbers are up and down. Every year is just wanting to be comfortable as much as possible.”
“There’s nothing, for me, Corey can’t do,” Roberts said. “He’s special. He’s special in not only with the ability to put the bat on the ball but with the head, the heartbeat. All that stuff just plays to a veteran.”
Looking around the clubhouse, it’s pretty easy to figure out where he got it from.