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.

whileyouwereout.jpgElation
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.

In a
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.

Who?

Let me tell you about my childhood hero.

seitzer_card.jpgAfter
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.

seitzer_getty.jpgIn
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.

Over the course of
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
.”
kevinseitzer.JPG

Seitzer
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.

In
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
.416.

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.

seitzer_coach.jpgAs 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.

As
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.

Information for this blog is courtesy of:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/seitzke01.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Seitzer
http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200902103815198
http://royals.mlblogs.com
http://www.baseballlibrary.com/ballplayers/player.php?name=Kevin_Seitzer_1962
http://royals.scout.com/2/656436.html

3 Comments

Kevin Seitzer will have an impact on the Royals as a coach. I find it admirable that Kevin was a role model of yours. He was an excellent player for many years. I respect your opinion and enjoy your blog. Good luck to your team this year and good luck to Kevin Seitzer.
Aaron
http://mlbtribefan.mlblogs.com

Great story! And given all the bad press that is floating around right now about baseball players, thanks for reminding us that there are a lot of great ones out there!

Julia
http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

That was a great story! I had heard of him but didn’t really know much. His numbers were good, I’m not much of a numbers person but he appeared to be really good. But the fact that he is a family man even with all of his successes in the MLB is most impressive. What a great person to have as your Baseball Hero. I like a lot of not very well known players also. Not necessarly my hereo but Olmedo Saenz is one of my favorites because I always saw him on the bench and when it was his time to come in he produced. And he never complained, he knew that was his roll and he excelled. You don’t need to be a superstar like an A-Rod to be a great ball player, maybe for the HOF but not for a real fan. I also love Matt Stairs. girlybaseballchick.mlblogs.com/

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