KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Jeff and Jody Seager watch baseball -- a lot of baseball -- on television.
“We must watch about 440 games a year,” Jeff explained.
The Seagers’ three sons -- Kyle, Justin and Corey -- are all professional baseball players. Many in the sport believe the Seager sons, all graduates of Northwest Cabarrus High School, are destined to join the elite list of families that have had three siblings play in the majors at the same time.
Kyle, 27, already is in the big leagues, having spent the last five seasons as the Seattle Mariners’ starting third baseman. In 2014, he was named an All-Star and Gold Glove winner, and last December, the Mariners signed him to a seven-year, $100 million deal. Entering the weekend, he was batting .271 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs. Kyle recently captured headlines when he extended a streak of 407 chances without a throwing error, a span of 197 games.
The 23-year-old Justin, a former Charlotte 49ers star, is quickly making his way through the minor league system after being a 12th-round draft pick by the Mariners in 2013. The former Atlantic-10 co-player of the year, Justin is making waves with the Class A Advanced Bakersfield (California) Blaze.
Meanwhile, Corey, 21, is considered one of the top prospects in the minor leagues. He was the highest draft pick of the Seager brothers, as the Los Angeles Dodgers took him eighth overall in 2012. Currently with the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers, many believe it is only a matter of time before he will make his debut with the Los Angeles team.
Home field advantage
Even before you step foot in the Seagers’ Kannapolis home, you get a sense of how important baseball is to the family.
On the front porch is a welcome mat in the shape of home plate. Inside, there’s a room that could be considered The Seager Hall of Fame. It is adorned with bats, balls, trophies and jerseys all three boys have worn during their careers.
The living room has one large widescreen television and another smaller widescreen that Jeff and Jody use to view each of Kyle and Corey’s televised games. They follow Justin’s progress by listening to the streaming Internet broadcast on the Bakersfield (California) Blaze team’s website.
While watching Kyle at the plate against the Detroit Tigers during a recent game, Jody couldn’t help taking it hard when he made an out.
“I take every at-bat very personal,” she said. “It’s hard not to get caught up in his ups and downs.”
Jody, an exceptional-children teacher and longtime physical education instructor at Odell Elementary in Concord, explained that throughout her sons’ lives, baseball has been a constant. And although each Seager son has God-given talent, their mother explained that commitment and a tireless work ethic are the secrets to their success.
“It’s not like it just happened,” Jody said. “We’ve been watching them since they were teeny-tiny.”
As the boys were growing up, Jody noted, just about everything the family did centered around baseball. Being a teacher also allowed Jody to be on the same schedule, and that made planning for time in the sport somewhat easier.
“We’re a baseball family,” Jody said. “That’s all we do.”
No place like Northwest
All three Seager sons played for coach Joe Hubbard at Northwest Cabarrus. And if you ask Hubbard, all three have left a legacy at the school like no other players before them.
“For those three boys, it meant something to them to play for Northwest Cabarrus,” said Hubbard, who has spent the last 23 years coaching at the school.
“They knew they were going on to advance in the baseball ranks and play at the collegiate level and (possibly) professional baseball,” added Hubbard. “They were the type of kids that at the end of the high school season, they don’t want to take the uniform off for the last time.”
But the Seager boys weren’t just baseball players. All three sons played high school basketball for former Trojans coach Daniel Perkins. He remembers all three boys being extremely competitive. Kyle was a 1,000-point scorer for the Trojans, and Justin was chosen to represent the area in a barnstorming tour game against some ACC all-stars,
“I don’t remember dates, but I remember Kyle hitting a half-court buzzer beater at West Rowan,” Perkins said. “And there was one game Corey hit a half-court shot against Hickory Ridge.”
He’ll also never forget a certain accomplishment from Corey.
“Corey was also very proud that he was the only Seager to dunk in a game,” Perkins said.
But the baseball diamond, of course, was the Seagers’ sanctuary.
Although it has been nearly 10 years since he played for Hubbard, Kyle, who was picked by the Mariners in the third round, stays in contact with Hubbard. In addition to his parents, Kyle said Hubbard played a key role in the success that he and his brothers have enjoyed.
“Coach Hubbard was a big influence, and we worked a lot with him,” Kyle told the Independent Tribune during a telephone interview from Seattle. “He was an amazing coach for all three of us. He was very instrumental in this whole process. From my days playing for him in high school, to all the college stuff (at the University of North Carolina), he was very influential with all of this. He’s phenomenal, and he’s helped us out a ton.”
Corey also stays in contact with Hubbard, frequently discussing his progression through the minor leagues. The 6-foot-4 infielder spoke briefly about his ongoing admiration and respect for Hubbard.
“I respect every aspect of him,” Corey said via telephone.
Before Justin went on to play college ball for the Charlotte 49ers, he, too, was captivated by Hubbard and thoroughly enjoyed playing at Northwest Cabbarus. Justin said he is often reminded of home each time he wears his Bakersfield Blaze uniform because the colors are orange and black – the same colors he wore as a Northwest Cabarrus Trojan.
“Playing for (Hubbard) was some of the best times of my life,” Justin told the Independent Tribune over the phone. “He was always there for me then, and he still lets us go out to the school and work out there.”
In terms of their legacy at Northwest, Hubbard explained that the Seagers are far too humble to even accept that they have had that kind of impact on the school. But Hubbard does believe Kyle, Justin and Corey have left an indelible mark at Northwest that won’t soon be forgotten.
“I know that if you asked them they would say that they were just another bunch of kids playing baseball here,” Hubbard said. “But I think it meant a lot to our whole program here at Northwest and to the school itself. When other teams come to play here, I’m often asked, ‘So, this is where the Seager boys played?’ It’s pretty remarkable.”
Hubbard also pointed out that the Seagers weren’t just gifted athletes. He said there were outstanding students and even better human beings. The veteran Trojans coach said there are two reasons the Seagers boys have turned into the men they are.
“The credit really goes to Jeff and Jody Seager,” Hubbard said. “Jeff and Jody raised three remarkable kids, and because of that, those values that they instilled in those three young men are carried out today. You definitely have to go back to the way the kids grew up, the way their mom and dad raised them. Obviously, that’s the No. 1 factor in the quality of the young men they’ve turned out to be.”
Father Knows Best
Although all three Seager boys became fascinated with baseball at an early age, their father, who played at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, never pushed them into the sport.
Jeff, 55, who works in the banking industry in uptown Charlotte, recalled how he would take Kyle as a young boy to the old Harrisburg Elementary School, which is now Lowe’s Supermarket on NC 49.
“We would go down there, and they had like three fields, and we’d play so he could hit a home run and just fun stuff like that,” Jeff said.
Kyle’s interest in baseball was spawned by his father’s involvement in local softball games. Kyle would tag along and join in with other kids in pickup games while his Jeff played.
Talk to any one of the Seager boys, and they’ll immediately tell you that if wasn’t for their dad and his selfless commitment to them, none of them would be where they are today.
“Our dad was always our coach growing up, and he even coaches us to this day,” Kyle said. “In the offseason, we’ll go and hit with him. He’s constantly watching all of our games and he’s somebody that we talk to quite a bit.”
Justin said that a night doesn’t go by that he doesn’t talk to his father about the outcome of his game and how he can make any adjustments or improvements.
“My dad is amazing,” Justin said. “It’s not that he was involved; he’s still involved. He talks to me about hitting every night and asks me how I’m feeling. If I’m feeling weird with something, he’ll help me kind of see what might help. He’s been my coach when I was growing up, and he’s also my hitting coach because he’s probably thrown a million rounds of (batting practice).”
When told of his sons’ words of gratitude for the role he has played in their lives, Jeff was moved.
“That warms my heart deeply to know that they feel that way about me,” Jeff said. “I always tell people, ‘They’re my boys before they’re baseball players.’ I still view them as my kids, not baseball players.”