The Heroes of Children
My brother was always a big fan of Don Mattingly. How can you blame
him? Mattingly is a class act with a lot of talent who should be
inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had character. He played with an
intensity second to none.
As a Koch boy, you were raised to be a
Yankee fan. The Yankees are what we knew, who we loved, and what
defines the pinnacle of excellence in baseball. I have always been fond of my Bronx Bombers.
However, there was a certain player who
never played for Yankees that I became a big fan of. I have the two
Starting Lineups they made for him. I have a small album of his
baseball cards, even still today.
may be about the only word that could accurately describe what this eight year old felt
the day that an envelope arrived in the mail. Inside the envelope was
a hand written letter on the back of a pink “while you were out” slip
and an autographed baseball card of my favorite player.
time when baseball cards were an industry, and a highly successful one
at that, I had grown up in a home that also housed such a sports cards
and memorabilia store. While my friends would have to wait in lines
hours long to get autographs from these megastars and heroes, I only
had to send my hero a letter.
For his kindness and humility in
responding to a kid who couldn’t have been much more than eight years
old, I will always remember Kevin Seitzer.
Let me tell you about my childhood hero.
the 1997 season, Kevin Seitzer retired from baseball with a .295 BA in
12 seasons of major league service. He had offers from several teams,
however he wanted to coach his two sons and spend time with his family.
After spending four years in the majors, Seitzer accumulated a
batting average of .318 and was called up to the Kansas City Royals in
September of ’86. He so impressed the Royals that they gave him the
full time First Base gig in 1987.
His rookie season offensive
numbers were staggering. He went .323 with 15 home runs, 83 RBIs and
207 hits, tying a major league record for the year.
He was thirteenth on a list of rookies who collected 200 hits or more.
He would have been a shoe in for the Rookie of the Year nod if it
hadn’t been for a certain Oakland A’s player who belted out 49 home
runs, Mark Mcguire. He was voted to the All Star game that year.
1988 he swapped sides of the infield with George Brett and became their
everyday third baseman. He was well known for his patience and his
batting eye, which kept his on-base percentage to over .400. He was
never known as a power hitter, but his eye helped him to be one of the
best placement hitters of the late 80′s.
the remainder of his tenure with the Royals, he saw a continuing
decline in his offensive stats until his release in spring training of
’92. Although he was released, his average had never dipped below .265
and he had become one of the top offensive producers in Royals history.
Leaving Kansas City was hard for Seitzer, who had spent 9 years within the organization.
“Well, let’s put it this way. If your mom and
dad told you that you weren’t in the family anymore and to pack your
bags – that’s about how it felt,” said Seitzer in a July 4, 2007 interview with Scout.com. “It was a crusher man, because you sign
with somebody, you spend that long with them, and they were family.
They were your employer and they were everything, and you felt like you
were part of the whole family. And then when they let you go, man its
rough, and that was the worst one. Guys change teams all the time, and
the first one is the worst one, lets put it that way.”
spent the rest of his career bouncing around Milwaukee, Oakland, and
finally Cleveland. After losing confidence in his hitting ability
during the middle of his career, Seitzer found his groove, finishing
his career with three .300+ seasons and a final year in Cleveland
posting a .268 in 64 games as a spot starter and pinch hitter.
1995, he was again selected to the AL All Star team, although his best
year was in ’96 when he posted an average of .326, with 187 hits, 85
runs, 87 walks to 79 strike outs, with a total on base percentage of
He posted some incredible
numbers during his major league career. He tasted the post season in in
’96 and in ’97, his final season, played in seven games of the World
Series, and was voted to two allstar games.
In 2007, Seitzer
was hired by the Arizona Dimaondbacks as a hitting coach. In 2009, he
became Kansas City’s Hitting Coach, bringing him back to the
organization where he began his career, and hoped to someday end it.
As an 8 year old following baseball, those numbers all meant nothing to me. I just knew that he was a pretty good ball player who was kind enough to send a letter to a kid who sent him one first, and to sign and return my baseball card.
an adult, the numbers are impressive, but to see a father who could put
his career aside to spend time with his children is heart warming. To
know that he is a man who is not afraid to share his faith in
inspiring. To see him continue to serve baseball through his training
facility, and now as a coach at the major league level, is admirable.
To me, Kevin Seitzer will always be a hero.
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