Photo: Jill Weisleder/L.A. Dodgers

PG Dodger, a new generation

Jeff Dahn

Published: Sunday, March 20, 2016



GLENDALE, Ariz. – There are a couple of big-league veterans on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ roster this spring that would probably require inclusion on any list of Perfect Game’s "founding fathers.”

Four-time MLB All-Star outfielder and 14-year big-league veteran Carl Crawford was basically “discovered” by Tampa Bay scouts at the PG World Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., in 1999, only the second year that long-running event was held. Three-time MLB All-Star and 11-year veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir garnered unprecedented attention at both the 2000 and 2001 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., years that event was in its infancy.

They are just two of 792 – and counting – PG alumni that have made their Major League Baseball debuts and two that have shown considerable staying power. Another PG alum, left-hander Clayton Kershaw, has already achieved superstar status in his eight seasons with the Dodgers.

He won three National League Cy Young Awards in the last five years (he was second and third in the voting the other two years), a Most Valuable Player Award (2014) and earned five straight All-Star Game appearances. Kershaw pitched in two PG WWBA tournaments in 2004 and 2005.

A fourth Dodgers’ roster spot is filled by yet another much younger Perfect Game alumnus with soaring potential and equally high expectations thrust upon him who has only 390 minor league games and a paltry 27 major league games under his belt, hardly even a sample-size. But first-year Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is counting on 21-year-old Corey Seager to be his starting shortstop this season, once Seager recovers from a nagging knee injury.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Seager suffered a “mild sprain” to his left knee while running the bases in a Cactus League game March 11. He and the Dodgers’ coaching and training staff are hopeful he will be available on April 4 when the Dodgers celebrate Opening Day in San Diego and then make a run for an NL Rookie of the Year Award; he's the preseason favorite.

“Corey has started to do a few more baseball activities as far as taking swings and throwing,” Roberts said during a brief Q&A session Sunday morning outside the Dodgers’ spring training clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. “He’s nine days out (after the injury) and he’s progressing well so I’m pretty optimistic on him.”

Seager was not available for comment Sunday morning while he rehabs, but in statements made over the last nine days since the injury he has remained hopeful he’ll be ready to go on Opening Day. If he is not out there, it’s likely Roberts will turn to top utility man Enrique Hernandez. Whether it’s Seager or Hernandez, that player will be the Dodgers’ sixth different Opening Day shortstop in the last six years.

While there is no guarantee that Seager will develop into the Dodgers’ next Pee Wee Reese, Maury Wills or Bill Russell at the shortstop position, the first four years of his professional career indicate he belongs in the conversation with the game’s other top young shortstops who established themselves with stellar rookie seasons in 2015.

They include AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa with the Astros, AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Francisco Lindor with the Indians, and the Cubs’ Addison Russell. Seager joined Correa and Russell at both the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase and the 2011 PG All-American Classic; Lindor was at those same two events in 2010.

The National Showcase and All-American Classic weren’t Seager’s only involvement with Perfect Game during his high school years in North Carolina. He made his PG debut at the 2009 15u PG WWBA National Championship in Marietta, Ga., with Andy Partin’s N.C.-based Dirtbags Baseball organization, the first of seven PG WWBA tournaments he played in with the Dirtbags. He was a member of the Dirtbags’ team that shared the championship with Chet Lemon's Juice at the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

“Corey Seager, for sure, he had something different; (former Dirtbag) Wil Myers, he had something different. Especially at a young age, those kids were able to do stuff that the other kids couldn't do,” Partin told PG in October.

Seager, who was a member of the USA Baseball 16u team that won the gold medal at the 2010 COPABE Pan Am Youth Championships, told PG in 2013 that he found all those experiences to be both educational and sometimes eye-opening: “You got to see the rest of the country and you got to see where you compared with everybody else. They were really good tournaments and showcases.”

A University of South Carolina signee, Seager was a first-round (18th overall) pick of the Dodgers in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft right out of Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord, N.C., and began what would be a four-year minor league career.

On April 27, 2013, he was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, playing for the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers’ affiliate in the Class A Midwest League. It just happened to be Seager's 19th birthday and he celebrated by going 3-for-5 with a pair of two-run home runs, a double, four RBI and three runs scored in the Loons’ extra-inning loss.

It wasn’t exactly a microcosm of his years in the minors but it soon became obvious to the Dodgers’ brass that 390 games in the minors was enough. He slashed .307/.368/.523 in those games and averaged 16 home runs, 29 doubles, 70 RBI and 65 runs scored in each of four 98-game seasons.

He made his big-league debut last Sept. 3 versus the Padres and went 2-for-4 with two RBI. He played in 26 more games, slashing .337/.425/.561 with 13 extra-base hits (4 HRs) and 17 RBI. That audition essentially won him the starting shortstop job in 2016.

Corey Seager is the younger brother of 28-year-old Seattle Mariners’ All-Star third baseman Kyle Seager, who was at the 2005 PG National Showcase and played in a couple of PG WWBA tournaments with Partin’s Dirtbags in the mid-2000s. The Mariners’ selected Kyle Seager in the third-round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of North Carolina, and with five big-league seasons under his belt he represents the same generation of PG alumni that includes Kershaw.

The Dodgers are the fifth big-league team Kazmir – a first-round pick (15th overall) of the Mets in 2002 – has been with since 2011 but he’s still productive; he was a 15-game winner and an AL All-Star with Oakland in 2014. Crawford was a four-time AL All-Star with Tampa Bay between 2002-10 but has been injury prone the last six seasons – two with the Red Sox and four with the Dodgers – and is no longer a starter.

For different reasons, Kazmir and Crawford (and Kershaw, for that matterr) were also not available to comment for this story Sunday morning. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to look back on the company these PG “founding fathers” kept back in the day, especially when looking at the 2001 PG WWBA World Championship Kazmir attended.

The place was the Roger Dean Stadium Complex in Jupiter, Fla., and out there on any one of the 10 fields at any given time you could see Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke, Brian McCann and Melvin Upton, Joey Votto and Ryan Zimmerman, and those were just the guys from Kazmir’s class of 2002.

“We get a big kick of sitting around former players, the guys that were down there and playing,” the Dirtbags’ Partin said of those early years in Jupiter. “I remember one the first years I went down (2001) Prince Fielder was on one field beside me and across from me on another field was Scott Kazmir. I was thinking, ‘What in the world?’”

Time to make room for the next generation ...



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