Column: Dodgers’ Corey Seager remains humble while having an outstanding rookie year

All-Star rookie shortstop Corey Seager is performing better than anticipated for the Dodgers and keeping a low profile instead of showboating.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

Corey Seager is shaking his head as I tell him he should start flipping his bat.

“Oh, man,” he says.

Seager laughs.

“I don’t know about that one,” he says.

I’m trying to help. The Dodgers rookie has the potential to be a star, more than a star on the field, but the kind who transcends his sport and defines a city.

He’s only 22 and already the best position player on one of baseball’s flagship franchises. He played in his first All-Star game this week. He’s a good-looking kid with a warm smile.


There’s the not-so-little problem of the majority of Los Angeles being unable to watch him on television, but there’s really nothing he can do about that.

What he can do is distinguish himself from the other stars in this star-packed town by flipping his bat and showing some personality.

Has he ever flipped his bat?

“I don’t think so,” he says.

What about standing and admiring a home run?

“I don’t even know if I hit them, so I have to run them out,” he says.


Doesn’t he know his adopted hometown once branded itself as “Mannywood?”

Seager listens politely as I explain to him that Los Angeles is looking for someone to replace Kobe Bryant.

Clayton Kershaw is here, but for how much longer? Kershaw can become a free agent in a couple of years.

Maybe it will be Jared Goff or Todd Gurley of the Rams. Or Brandon Ingram or D’Angelo Russell of the Lakers. Or Julio Urias of the Dodgers.

What about Seager?

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“I don’t know,” Seager says.

He smiles uncomfortably.

“He was special,” Seager says of Bryant. “He changed the city, won a lot of championships. That’s big shoes for anybody to fill.”

Conversing with Seager, it’s easy to understand why his coaches and teammates like him.

“People can say what they want about him, but in this day and age where athletes seem to enjoy the self-promotion, it’s refreshing to see a guy that wants no part of it,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts says.

Even opposing players sound as if they admire that about him.

“He knows he’s good, but he’s humble,” San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey says. “There’s some humility there.”

But how will that play in a market such as Los Angeles?

In the absence of championships, an oversized personality has as much value here as ability, if not more. Fans like players to whom they can relate emotionally, which is why someone as expressive as Yasiel Puig can remain popular even as his production has fallen to pedestrian levels.

In some ways, Seager is the embodiment of a growing debate in baseball.

The sport’s top players have modest national profiles compared to their counterparts in football and basketball, which Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals blames on a conservative baseball culture that promotes stoicism.

At the same time, maintaining a level-headed demeanor is what some of the best players say is the best method of dealing with the frequent failure they will encounter over a 162-game season.


Posey, a National League most valuable player, has this kind of temperament. So does Mike Trout of the Angels, who is widely considered the best player in the game.

It’s a similar tranquility that has allowed Seager to excel under expectations that have crushed other can’t-miss prospects. Seager entered the season as the top prospect in baseball, but has managed to perform considerably better than projected, batting .297 with 17 home runs and 42 runs batted in over the Dodgers’ first 91 games.

“There are just not that many people like him at that age,” Roberts says. “To handle expectations that people have for him and to eliminate the noise and just play baseball, it takes a special person.”

When Puig and Matt Kemp represented the Dodgers in the home run derby in previous seasons, they choked. Seager had no such problems this week, blasting 15 home runs in the first round and narrowly falling to Mark Trumbo. Seager made an error in the All-Star game and struck out in his only at-bat, but he looked unfazed afterward.

That he would be unshaken is entirely expected, considering how he reacted to batting only .250 in the first month of the season. Rather than panic, Seager adjusted to how pitchers were attacking him.

“It’s willing to be able to make changes,” Seager says.

It’s harder than it sounds. Elite prospects tend to want to stick with the approaches that have worked for them their entire lives. Kershaw was always mature for his age, but even he resisted change as a young pitcher.


This openness to change has made Seager the standout performer on an otherwise underperforming lineup, something Roberts admits he didn’t anticipate.

“Corey is an outlier,” Roberts says.

And maybe he can be more than that.


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