Then and Now: RC Q&A with Kevin Seitzer

Kevin Seitzer played for the Royals from 1986-1991 and overall, spent parts of twelve seasons at the Major League level. A tremendous hitter and teammate, the right-handed hitting Seitzer was an All-Star twice during his career (1987 & 1995), and he currently serves as Hitting Coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Seitzer is our latest guest in this edition of "Then & Now."

Royals Corner: Thanks for taking time out from your season to catch up with us. You graduated from Lincoln (IL) High School in 1980, and lettered in baseball, basketball and track. How much baseball attention were you getting as a senior, and did professional baseball ever seem like a possibility?

Kevin Seitzer: I wasn't getting a whole lot of attention in baseball; it was actually more in basketball. The first baseball interest I got was right at the end of my senior year, and a scout from the Blue Jays asked me if I'd ever considered playing professional baseball. That was the first time that it'd ever really donned on me that maybe I might be good enough to play pro ball. He asked me if I would consider signing after my senior year, and I said, "For how much?" And he said, "For "$10,000" and I said, "Nope, I'm going to college."

I didn't know if that was good or not. I figured $100,000 was good, and if not, I was going to college.

RC: Since they wouldn't give you $100,000, you ended up attending Eastern Illinois University, and one of the highlights while you were at EIU was a 2nd place finish in the 1981 NCAA Division II College World Series. What are your favorite memories of playing college baseball and did you ever face anyone that you'd later see in professional baseball?

KS: I'm sure I did. My memory is brutal. I do remember facing Danny Cox in the World Series as a freshman and, he ended up having a good big league career with the Cardinals. I'm trying to think if there was anybody else. My college coach would be able to rattle them off left and right, but I don't remember.

College baseball was filled with highlights, because it's a blast, an absolute blast. The long hours of practice are kind of the worst part of it, but as far as going out and playing games and being with your teammates and all that, it was really awesome. Just being able to go through the whole college scene was great.

RC: When the Royals selected you in the 11th round of the 1983 draft from EIU, were you surprised, or did you have a good idea that KC would take you?

KS: No, I was shocked. I didn't know if and when I would be drafted. I tore a hamstring halfway through my junior year, and I wasn't running very good. And I finished up the season with good numbers, but I probably should have taken a month off from the hammy injury, and just missed a few days and hobbled around the bases the rest of my junior year. But, I was happy.

RC: What do you remember about the moment you got the call, and where were you at?

KS: I don't remember where I was. I was probably at home with my parents. I remember being really happy about it and looked forward to moving onto the next stage of my life.

RC: After signing with the Royals, you began your professional career in 1983 at Butte, and hit .345 in 68 games, finishing 4th in the Pioneer League in batting average. Were those three months difficult and lonely, or new and exciting?

KS: Very difficult. Being out on my own for the first time was really, really a big transition, and being in the middle of the mountains in the middle of nowhere with no car, it was a severe adjustment (Laughs). Let's put it that way - the numbers were there and the games were fun with a lot of success, so you can bear a lot of things when you're doing well.

RC: 1984 you played in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina and again finished 4th in the league in hitting, as you hit .297 in 141 games. What do you remember about that summer?

KS: That summer I remember having the worst defensive year of my life. I had a real bad arm – I hurt it at the beginning of the season. I really shouldn't have been playing third base and couldn't throw the ball in the air, literally. I was trying to one hop throws to first because my arm was so bad, but I had to play because that's what my manager wanted. I did the best I could, but I think I had 50 errors that year.

RC: 1985 was a big year for you, as you played half the season in Fort Myers (.314) and then moved up to Memphis (.348). What made the jump from A-ball to Double-A so easy for you, and what do you remember about that year?

KS: I don't know why it was so easy. I was really having a lot of success, seeing the ball well, and things just continued when I got there. Anytime you get called up, there's a great deal of excitement and you want to get off to a good start, and things just worked out that way. It was as lot of fun playing in Memphis on the Astroturf field, it was just incredible.

RC: You played both outfield and infield in the minor leagues, but which did you consider your strength, and which did position did the Royals tell you fit in their plans?

KS: Well, when I had the arm trouble, it lasted pretty much the rest of my life. So, I did play some third base, but the last couple of years in the minors, I transitioned over to first, and I think that ended up being one of the best parts of my career, in that I had some versatility. And when I got to Triple-A, the last couple of months, they said, "Have you ever played outfield?", and I had in college very briefly. So, they moved me there and that's how I ended up getting called up to big leagues in September, as an outfielder. But after that, I barely played it again.

RC: When you looked up from the minor leagues and saw George Brett at third base, and corner outfielders like Danny Tartabull and Bo Jackson, were you ever concerned about where you'd get your at bats?

KS: No. Honestly, when I was in the minors, I never expected to make it. My mindset was to play the best I could at the level I was at, and if I was good enough to move up, I'd move up, and if not, I wouldn't. So, I never really got caught up in all of that stuff that was out of my control, and I guess I had a pretty good foundation. My college coach instilled that in me, just to worry about things you can control and not the things that you can't, so that was my mindset.

Plus, they always say that the cream rises to the top, and he had a lot of sayings like that; he was like a second father to me through college and after college, and he told me that and it was right. He was a guy who really laid the foundation for me as far as hitting the ball the other way and made it possible for me to get where I got.

RC: Very cool. You began 1986 in Omaha, where you hit .319 with 13 HR and 74 RBI and again finished 4th in the league in batting average, which you mirrored at every stop in the minor leagues. You got a September call-up to Kansas City and played in 28 games that month, hitting .323 while primarily playing first base. Was getting called up a surprise at all, and what do you remember about the moment you found out?

KS: That I do remember; I was surprised because I really never thought it would happen. I didn't really spend a lot of time thinking about it, just because it seemed so far fetched that a guy like me could ever make it to the major leagues and when it did happen, I remember feeling almost numb. Very excited, and it was an awesome day. We were in Denver, and we had just got done completing the playoffs in Triple-A, and I think we got beat out then, so they told me right after the last game and I remember thinking, "Man, I wish we'd have lost sooner so I could have gotten up sooner." (Laughs)

RC: (Laughs) Your first big league hit came off of Joe Cowley of the White Sox on September third of that year, 1986. That was in the ninth inning and tied the game, and you later had the game winning hit in the tenth off of Gene Nelson. What do you remember about that game and does it seem like just yesterday or 21 years ago?

KS: What I remember was that I lined out to right, then bombed one to center that Darryl Boston made an over the shoulder catch on, lined out to right again, and was 0-for-3 with three rockets. And I remember the fourth at bat I went 3-1, and I was like, "This is my shot right here, I'm swinging if it's close."

It wasn't a great pitch to hit but almost on the outside corner, and I hit it off of end of the bat to center for my first hit. So that was awesome and then in extra innings, they walked the bases loaded to get to me, and with one out, made a pitching change and brought in Gene Nelson. I ended up hitting a chopper off the plate that Willie Wilson scored on from third to win the ballgame. Not really a legit hit but I'll take it (Laughs).

RC: (Laughs) Mike Ferraro was your first big league manager. What was he like?

KS: Nice guy. He was the interim guy for the year, as Dick Howser had gotten cancer. Mike was a wonderful, really nice guy.

RC: What did the Royals tell you at the end of 1986, and did you expect to "stick" in the big leagues at that point?

KS: They didn't really tell me a whole lot. I ended up going and playing Winter Ball down in Puerto Rico, and I guess after that month, I had figured that I had somewhat of a chance to make the team the next year. And it ended up being a good deal, so things worked out and I was thankful for the opportunity to play Winter Ball and position myself for the 1987 roster, but I had no idea going in.

RC: In 1987, you made your first Opening Day roster and finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year balloting behind Mark McGwire, as you hit .323 with 15 HR and 83 RBI. You tied Kirby Puckett for the league lead in hits, finished 6th in the AL in batting average, and led the Royals in virtually every offensive category. Were you surprised with the immediate success that you had that season, and what sticks out about that year?

KS: Yeah, I was very surprised. You never know how you're going to do until you get an opportunity, and I just kind of felt like it was one of those Cinderella story things. Like I said, a guy like me having that kind of success at that level, I never anticipated it being possible, but just being in the big leagues for the fist time and getting to play everyday was really awesome. I think I played in 161 games that year, made the All-Star team, and that was really cool, and I had a 6-hit game in August that year – now that was really cool!

But, the greatest thing was being in the playoff drive all the way to the very end against the Twins, and that was about as exciting as it could get. That was something that kind of stuck with me for the rest of my career, and I said, "The only thing I want is to get to the post-season."

It was pretty good year in ‘87.

RC: You also permanently became a third baseman that season, moving over from first in May. Do you remember the switch going smoothly, and what was it like replacing a future Hall of Famer at third?

KS: Well, it did go pretty smoothly. I had some good coaches that worked with me on my foot work at third base, because my arm never did come back to the way it was when I signed, so I had to work hard. I really don't feel like I replaced a future Hall of Famer; I feel like I just switched positions with him, so it wasn't that big of a deal. I was just thankful to still be in the lineup.

RC: In 1988, you guys finished 84-77 (third place) while individually, you hit .304 and spent just one day below the .290 mark. You became the first Royal in history to hit .300 in each of your first two full seasons. To whom do you give the most credit to in your quick development as a major league hitter, and how much did it help having guys like George Brett around to speak with for advice?

KS: I'd say a couple of guys. My college coach taught me how to hit the ball to the opposite field, and I wouldn't have had a chance to play pro ball without that. And my minor league hitting coordinator, Ken Berry was his name; that was my guru coming up through the minors. When he came into town, I was going to get four hits - he just had a way of saying things and making tweaks and adjustments to get me rolling.

RC: While we're talking about some of the people you were with in the Royals organization, what was it like playing with Bo Jackson?

KS: Amazing. Really, it was like you felt like you'd see something everyday you showed up at the park that you hadn't seen before. The best athlete by far that I ever played with or against; just an amazing specimen, you know? He did some great things and I saw some great things, and it was fun playing with him.

RC: In 1989, you guys went 92-70 (second place) but were still seven games behind Oakland, although you battled them all season long for first place. How frustrating was it coming up short to the A's during that era, and that season in particular?

KS: Any time you come up short it's frustrating, and you try and learn from it and focus on the next season. It ended up being a long, grueling draw playing 162 that year, and it was a dog fight to be there at the end. And when you're not there at the end, it's frustrating, but you move on and got on with the next year.

RC: Do you feel like that was a legitimate rivalry, and was there ever any trash talking going on down on the field?

KS: Kind of the same as everybody else. I don't remember having too many rivalries and trash talking and things like that with anyone.

RC: 1990 was one of the most disappointing years in Royals history, as Mark and Storm Davis were signed and many, including Sports Illustrated, picked the Royals to make the World Series. However, you guys finished just 75-86 (sixth place). What went wrong that year, and do you feel like maybe the team bought into the hype a little too much?

KS: I don't know what went wrong; we just played bad baseball that whole season. I don't think anyone bought into hype. Obviously, we got excited when we got some keys that we thought were going to help take us to the promise land, but we still had to get it done between the lines, and some guys had rough years that year. Things just didn't work out.

RC: Is that the most disappointing team effort you've ever been associated with?

KS: I don't know about most disappointing, but it was right up there. It was a rough year for everybody, let's put it that way. It wasn't any fun.

RC: While 1990 was flat out disappointing, 1991 was nearly as difficult, as the team finished in sixth place again (82-80) and went through three managers in John Wathan, Bob Schaefer and Hal McRae. Individually, you saw your average dip for the third straight year, as you hit just .265, albeit in only 85 games. Did you feel like you were struggling or just flat out unlucky and unhealthy during that year?

KS: That year, my knees were really, really bad. And going into that season, there was the question of having my knees scoped out, and they decided not to do it. Then about a week into the season, I broke my hand; I got hit by a pitch and spent six weeks on the DL, and came back and ended up missing a lot of the first half. And then at the All-Star break, I remember I was hitting about .290 and then got benched for the whole second half and just ended up becoming a pinch hitter and spot starter. So it was rough individually and mentally, but physically was the biggest deal; I couldn't move well or run.

After that year, I ended up having my knees scoped and felt better physically, but there were about four years in the middle of my career where I lost my confidence in my ability to hit and who I was as a player. Hitting used to come easy, and then it didn't, and I wasn't sure why. So anyway, I got back on track after I got released twice. You've got two choices at that point; get at it hard or shut ‘em down, and fortunately, things worked out.

RC: You came to Spring Training with the Royals in 1992 but were released on March 26th. What do you remember about that spring and did you have a good idea that the release was going to happen?

KS: No, I didn't have any idea that was going to happen. It was a very rough spring. I didn't play much and had my knees operated on. I worked really hard all winter rehabbing and getting ready for Spring Training. Came into Spring Training feeling better physically than I had in forever, and then didn't play much and they ended up letting me go.

RC: How tough was it walking away from the Royals after spending nine years in the organization, and how emotional was that particular March 26th?

KS: 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. 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.

RC: Shortly after being released by the Royals, you signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on April 5th, and played on a 92-70 team that finished in second place in the A.L. East. What was it like playing under Phil Garner and how did you like your first season in Milwaukee?

KS: Phil Garner was probably my favorite manager that I played for. Great player's manager, and we had great veterans in Paul Molitor, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount, and it was a phenomenal team; it was one of my favorites. My times in Milwaukee were very memorable; the crowds were great, the clubhouse atmosphere was great, and it was fun. It was a nice a breath of fresh air after going through a release and all of that.

RC: Following 1992, you signed with the Oakland Athletics, and spent 73 games with the A's in 1993 before being released and re-signing with the Brewers for the remainder of the season. Did you ever expect to be in a Brewers uniform again after leaving just a few months earlier?

KS: No. Actually, I didn't have a choice and was forced to leave. I didn't want to leave and loved it there. But I was a free agent and they wouldn't offer me arbitration, and they wanted me to sign for one-third of what my numbers dictated, and I just couldn't do that. As for Oakland, I just got off to a horrible start that year and got released at the All-Star Break, and being able to go back and sign with Milwaukee was the best. I felt like I was back at home again because really, I didn't want to leave in the first place. We had a real strong finish that year, too and they gave me a two-year deal after that, even after just a month and a half of producing. Sal Bando giving me that two-year deal really got me rolling.

RC: You played with Milwaukee in both 1994 and 1995, and while the team struggled, you hit above .300 (.314 & .311) both years and were an All-Star in 1995. When you look back, how much of a thrill was it representing two different cities in the All-Star game?

KS: It was great. I think the thrill for me personally was to come up, make an All-Star team, get released twice, and then get back to it after that. That was very rewarding to me and a big accomplishment.

RC: What are your favorite memories of playing in Milwaukee, and who were some of your favorite teammates?

KS: Oh Man. Gosh, I have so many… I guess, playing in front of those fans; 10,000 people could make so much noise there, it was awesome. And like I said, all the guys, the atmosphere, and playing for Phil Garner was great. There were some players that I was really close to like Bill Wegman and Cal Eldred, and they had a real good nucleus of Christians on that team. We had some good bible studies on the road and went to chapels, and it was a real good growth period for me personally playing there.

RC: In 1996, you began the year with the Brewers, before being traded to the Cleveland Indians on August 31st for Jeromy Burnitz. You went from a third place team to a first place and playoff team. Before we talk about appearing in the playoffs, were you blindsided by that deal, and was it tough to leave Milwaukee?

KS: No, because I was going to retire after that season, and I was really having a good year, but I just wanted to be with my kids. They were getting up there; I think they were 12 and 7 at the time. So Sal Bando came down to me and said there were a lot of calls coming in for me at playoff stretch time before the deadline, so I said, "This is going to be it, I just want to play in the post-season, that's all I've ever wanted, and if you can get something for me, it'd be my way of saying thanks for resurrecting my career again and being so good to me as opposed to me just retiring and riding into the sunset and getting nothing for me."

So I guess they did me a favor and I did them one too by going ahead and getting traded, because I had an option year on my contract and I had to agree to the option of one more year before that trade got finalized.

RC: The Indians lost in the first round of the playoffs that year at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles, but it still had to be a thrill for you to appear in post-season play for the first time at the Major League level. What do you remember about the 1996 ALDS?

KS: It was a thrill. It was everything that I had hoped and dreamed about it being. The excitement was just awesome, just couldn't be better, other than we lost in the first round. But the one thing that I remember was Jimmy Key pitching against us in Baltimore and I came up with bases loaded and 2 outs, and he went 3-0 on me, and I remember seeing the ball good, feeling good, took a strike because it was a tie game or real close, and it was a chance to break it open a little bit. And then it was 3-1, then 3-2 because I was going to take two strikes and try to work a walk or get him at 3-2. He went 3-2 and threw me a changeup, fooled me, struck me out, and it was the most gut wrenching at bat that I ever had, let's put it that way.

RC: How did you like playing under Mike Hargrove?

KS: Good. Playing on that team was great; we had so much talent and it was great walking out on the field where you could kind of tell that everyone expected us to win. It was a great way to finish up my career.

RC: 1997 was your final year in the big leagues, and you went out in memorable fashion, as the Indians went 86-75 and went all the way to the World Series after defeating the Yankees and Orioles. You guys ultimately lost 4-3 to the Florida Marlins, but it had to be amazing to play in the World Series. What do you remember about that?

KS: Well, I remember being one out away and one strike away from a World Championship, and we ended up going extra innings and lost. It was the most difficult, bone crushing defeat that I've ever been a part of, and it took me about two weeks before I could retire and feel like I was semi-normal again. It was almost like there was a grieving period for two weeks for me. But it was good, being able to go out and play seven games in the World Series and finish my career like that - it was perfect and everything that you'd hoped and dreamed it would be other than losing.

RC: You said you had planned to retire after 1996 but kept playing as a favor to the Brewers so the trade to Cleveland could go through. But once you nearly tasted a championship, was there ever a thought about coming back for 1998 at the conclusion of the '97 season?

KS: No. I was totally done at that point no matter what. I had the best year of my career in 1996, and then we signed some free agents and made some trades and I ended up not being an everyday player for the first time in 1997, and that was really difficult for me. It was something where I knew I was going to be done after that year and go home and be with my kids and start coaching them, so I was looking forward to it. No regrets, no second thoughts or anything.

RC: When you look back today, do you consider yourself a Royal?

KS: Yeah. I mean, living in Kansas City and being involved in the alumni and doing stuff on their behalf, makes me feel that way.

I would say that after I retired, there were a few years where I didn't go to many games, hardly any at all, actually. Fred White started Royals Alumni and that got me involved, just being around some of my old teammates and getting out to more ballgames, and yeah, I would still consider myself a Royal, although right now, I consider myself a Diamondback!

RC: What are your favorite memories of Kansas City, both on and off the field?

KS: Favorite memories were playing with guys like George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry, just all the great guys… Kurt Stillwell, Jeff Montgomery, Mike MacFarlane… I had some great friends that still are to this day. I think that was the best memory, the relationship you have with your teammates and all of that.

And then off the field, that ended up becoming home for me. When you make a place home, it's a pretty big deal. You become part of the city and gosh, we've been there 21 years now.

RC: If you had to pick one game to relive while you were in Kansas City, which game sticks out?

KS: Probably the day I went 6-for-6. For me personally, that was a big deal. It was amazing, actually.

RC: Which of your Royal teammates were you closest with, and which do you still keep in touch with today?

KS: Mike MacFarlane by far. I mean, he and I were roommates when we first came up and we're business partners now with Mac ‘N' Seitz and our indoor training facility there in town. We were best friends and still are, and he was definitely the guy I was and still am closest to.

RC: You've obviously spent a lot of time around the Royals in recent years and still follow the organization. How would you classify the current health and future of the Kansas City Royals?

KS: I think they are in a good place. I think Dayton Moore taking over has made some great moves and done great things during his short time there thus far. They've got a lot of talent, so I'm very surprised how they started this year. I really expected them to get off to a better start, but I think as Alex Gordon and Billy Butler and those guys get more comfortable, and I know there's some pitching down there coming along in the system, but I think once things come together, there's some good things to come.

RC: Before we talk about being the hitting coach in Arizona, tell us more about "Mac ‘N' Seitz" Baseball & Softball facilities and how they came about?

KS: Well, Mac and I decided after we retired that we wanted… Well, we have two loves and passions; baseball and kids. We wanted to take the knowledge that we were able to acquire through our playing days and pass it along to young kids. We both just wanted to stick around the game, but also wanted to be around our own kids. So that was kind of how the whole thing started and evolved into a pretty good business and program. We've got great people that are working for us and it's been a really good thing, very rewarding, lets put it that way. We've had lots of kids go on and play college baseball and some that have gone on to play professional baseball, so it's been a good thing for us, and we've really had a good time with it.

RC: You're now the hitting coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and many people have no idea what that entails. Describe to us a normal day for a Major League hitting coach, and what exactly does the job involve?

KS: Well, I go to the park about 12:30, 1:00, get there and get things ready for the day. Make out the batting practice groups, get the BP pitchers scheduled, and then I get ready and wait for the guys to start trickling in. When they do, we go down to the cage, do our drills and their pre-game routines, and work on things that need to be worked on.

For instance, we study film, pitchers that we're ready to come up against, go over advanced reports, and just get things ready for our advanced meeting that we do on the opposing pitcher for the day. First game of series we go over the bullpen and get studied up real good on the opponent that we have that day.

Let's see, what else… Some days, we have extra hitting, and we usually do that twice a week, and we have about 5-7 guys that normally come out for that, typically guys that don't get many at bats so they can get extra swings. And then one or two starters that might be scuffling that want to do some stuff on the field, they'll come out as well. So I usually throw that twice a week or so.

And then during BP, I stand and lean on the back of the cage and watch the groups come through, make them do the rotations and then make tweaks as they need to be made. I'll talk to the guys during course of their routines and we usually have some set routines they do the first couple of rounds and just work on things they need to do to be successful during the game.

And then during the game, I usually sit real close to the field where the steps are, where they go to the on deck circle, and I watch at bats and talk to guys before they go out if I need to tell them something. If I see something that happened during the course of the at bat, I'll talk to them after they come off field from defense. We also have video at home that's right down below the dugout and I usually go down during defense and watch all of the at bats that happened during that inning and see if I can find anything that needs to be addressed. And on the road, we usually have video set up in the clubhouse, so I'll take a run to the clubhouse to see what's going on, how they're getting worked, just anything I can pick up to help them out in their next at bat.

RC: Wow, I never had any idea there was so much involved in that job. Thanks for telling us about that. How are you liking it out in Arizona, and what else have you been doing over the last ten years?

KS: I love it in Arizona, absolutely love it. I've always loved the Phoenix area. The stadium is probably the most beautiful ballpark I've ever been in in my entire life. The clubhouse, the batting cages, the retractable dome. I mean, it's absolutely breathtaking to walk into a facility like that everyday and have that be the place you like to go to work; it's wonderful.

And I guess that over the last ten years, besides Mac N Seitz, has just been coaching. I was coaching my youngest son Cam, and coached my oldest son Brandon for the first couple of years after I retired until he went into hockey full time. And then I've been coaching Cam for the last nine years, and this is the first time I won't be coaching him. He's a junior in high school and getting ready to go out to college, and doing very well in baseball. And then I have two other sons, Nick and Tyler. Nick is playing college ball right now and Tyler is at MU, and my wife Beth and I just try and spend as much time together as we can. That's been the biggest adjustment, just being back on the road and traveling and being away from Beth - that has been somewhat of a challenge. But, we're adjusting pretty well I would say, so it's been good.

I miss Kansas City, but I'll be back when the season is over, hopefully after the World Series.

RC: Definitely. Thanks so much for your time, Kevin, especially during the busy season, and best of luck to you in the future.

KS: Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.

Royal Curve Top Stories