CONCORD, N.C. – Jeff and Jody Seager have traveled the country in recent years watching their youngest son, Corey, play baseball on some of the sport’s grandest stages.
The Kannapolis couple has made trips to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game – they did that with their oldest son, Kyle, too – and they’ve sat proudly in the stands as Corey took the field on some of the country’s most famous stadiums.
But this … well, this was different.
This was Game 1 of the 2017 World Series, Corey’s Los Angeles Dodgers against the Houston Astros.
And when Corey, a Northwest Cabarrus High School graduate, walked out to his shortstop position at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium Tuesday night, the Seagers sat in the crowd of more than 56,000 fans and had the nervousness and excitement of parents watching their child perform for the very first time.
“With both his all-star games, there wasn’t a lot at stake, so to speak,” Jeff explained. “But this is the apex of the baseball world, playing for a World Series. This was several magnitudes up, in terms of the nervous scale.”
That night, with Corey playing his first game after missing the National League Championship Series with a back injury, the Seagers didn’t have much to worry about. Corey played like the phenom many projected him to be when he graduated from Northwest Cabarrus in 2012, going 2-for-3 at the plate to help the Dodgers win Game 1 of the series, 3-1
It was the perfect ending to a long day for Jeff and Jody, who boarded a flight from Charlotte that morning and scurried to their hotel to freshen up and then to the stadium, thrilled about the prospect of seeing their son in the World Series but also curious about his general health.
“I think I was just so excited that he was back on the field,” Jody said. “I felt really bad for him that he didn’t get to play in the last series. We got to the stadium at about 1:30, and I kind of tried to think of it as just a regular game, but my stomach was a mess. I was so nervous.
“But the atmosphere was incredible, the crowd was incredible. They were all there early, chanting. It was really fun.”
That night, Corey stopped by his parents’ hotel room and spent about two hours with them.
But if Jeff and Jody were on the edge of their seats for Game 1, they could’ve never imagined what they’d go through the next night.
On Wednesday, with much of Cabarrus County cheering 2,500 miles away, Corey blasted a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning and let out a primal scream as he prepared to round the bases. The shot gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, and they appeared poised to take a commanding lead in the series.
The Astros had other plans, however, and rallied to win, 7-6, in a game that went 11 innings and more than four hours, and tied the series 1-1.
While the loss was rough, it certainly hasn’t quelled the enthusiasm for Jeff and Jody, whose oldest son, Kyle, is a star third baseman for the Seattle Mariners, and middle son, Justin, is working hard in the minor leagues with hopes of joining his siblings in the big leagues soon.
For people who regularly see their sons play at baseball’s highest levels, Jeff and Jody know they are experiencing something special now with Corey, and they plan on being with him step-for-step.
“This is not something where you can just say, ‘Oh, we’ll do it again next year,’” Jody said. “It’s the World Series. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
What a ride
Corey has taken his parents on quite a journey during this postseason. They traveled to see him when the Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Divisional Series last month, and then their emotions were tugged when Corey injured his back in the final game of that series.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Corey received an epidural injection the next day, but his body did not respond in time for him to play in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs.
After more treatment over the next several days, the Dodgers finally cleared him to play in the World Series early this week.
But doctors saying Corey was ready to play is one thing; a parent’s peace of mind is another.
And when the Seagers arrived in California Tuesday morning, Jeff had to know in his heart that Corey was OK to play. So when they got to Dodger Stadium, Jeff made his way down to the field to see Corey before he took batting practice.
“I can say in the beginning I was probably more nervous for Corey from him just really getting back to where he could play without getting himself hurt anymore,” Jeff said. “But before BP, we chatted a little while. That was really nice. He was fine. He looked in BP, and he did well in the game. It was all goodness.”
But Jeff’s calmness was short-lived. As the game drew closer, anxiety crept in.
“I went from that state (of concern about Corey’s health) to then getting very excited once he said he was fine,” Jeff said. “Then it became, ‘Wow! We’re going to play in the World Series.’
“Like Jody said, I tried to look at it as another game – ‘let’s just go have some fun’ kind of stuff. But it was wall-to-wall media, wall-to-wall security all over the place. It was definitely not a normal game. That was hard to maintain. But I just was so happy for him that he got a chance to play in the World Series.”
Tuesday and Wednesday’s games in Los Angeles, Jeff and Jody were the only other Seagers in attendance. That will change this weekend when the series moves to Houston.
The Seager traveling party will expand to about 12 people, featuring cousins, family friends and Corey’s two big brothers. Kyle’s wife, Julie, and their two children will also be there.
“That’ll be even more exciting to have everybody together,” Jody said. “I’m really excited that his brothers both are going to get to be there this weekend, because that doesn’t happen very often. It’ll be nice to see it through their eyes also.”
That’s not the only support Corey and his parents are getting during the World Series.
Jody said many people in Cabarrus County have reached out to them offering words of encouragement. She said they are grateful for the encouragement from folks here as they cheer on the family. They know they have the community’s support.
“I told my husband that he needed to turn the sound of his phone off (Tuesday) night because it just pings all day,” Jody said with a laugh. “You just hear the texts: ‘Ping! Ping! Ping!’
“But everyone has just been so supportive, and it’s great. Both our jobs have said, ‘You go, have fun, good luck! We’ll see you when you get home.’ That means a lot.”
Because of the nature of the postseason, Jeff and Jody don’t know exactly when they’ll return to Cabarrus County. With the series tied at one game apiece and the next three contests set to be played at Houston’s Minute Maid Park, starting with Friday’s Game 3, the series technically could end in Texas. Or the teams could return to L.A.
Jeff and Jody are prepared for whatever. They aren’t leaving their baby boy until this World Series is decided.
“When we came out here (Tuesday), we literally made a one-way ticket to L.A., and we’re just going to wing it from here,” Jody said. “Whatever we need to do next, I’ll get on the computer and make a ticket to there.”
After all the games they’ve seen, from youth leagues to Northwest Cabarrus High to Kannapolis Post 115 to faraway minor league ballparks with virtually no one else in the stands, watching Corey play in the Fall Classic isn’t too much of a hassle.
“It is very nerve-wracking, don’t get me wrong,” Jody said of seeing Corey play with so much at stake. “But it’s every kid’s dream to play in the major leagues. When our boys were all drafted, you’re just so excited at that point. And then to know that they’ve gone beyond that – they’ve made all-star games and won awards like rookie of the year. It’s great.
“But you don’t even dream of this,” she added. “It’s so out there that it’s just amazing. It’s not even something that you think about. And now that it’s here, it’s so overwhelming. It’s very exciting. I mean, I was tearing up (Tuesday) when he got his base hit. It’s win or go home at this point, so every moment is special and it counts.”
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