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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Grip on Sports: No it’s not spring yet, unless you are referring to spring training and a player who is in ‘the best shape of his life’

Seattle’s Kyle Seager kneels at the plate after he was tagged out at home by San Diego Padres catcher Francisco Mejia  on a fielder’s choice  during the seventh inning  Tuesday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle’s Kyle Seager kneels at the plate after he was tagged out at home by San Diego Padres catcher Francisco Mejia on a fielder’s choice during the seventh inning Tuesday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • There is more than a foot of snow in the backyard. The sun has spent most of February hiding behind an offensive line of clouds. The temperature hasn't nudged above freezing since the groundhog said hi to Bill Murray. So of course our dreams overnight were about spring. And baseball. Two things that go together like hot dogs and mustard. Read on.

••••••••••

• This is the time of year we discover there are players who have rededicated themselves in the offseason. Re-sculpted their body. Reinvigorated their mind. Renewed their commitment to success.

July, that’s when we find out whether it worked or not. In most cases, the answer is no.

Take Kyle Seager for example.

The Times’ Ryan Divish wrote about Seager today. A slimmer, more-athletic looking Seager. A more flexible Seager. He even included pictures.

That’s great. As Seager approaches the downside of his career – there is more and more statistical evidence baseball players peak around age 27 these days – he needed to get into better shape.

He’s done that.

Now will his game improve? He hit .221 last year, one in which he dealt with a toe injury that never got right. He got on base less than three times in every 10 plate appearances. His slugging percentage was 20 points lower than Ty Cobb’s best batting average.

It wasn’t good enough, not for M's fans, not for the organization and, most importantly, not for Seager.

So he spent the offseason improving his body, the instrument all professional athletes play. At 31, he feels he is better prepared for the rigors of the baseball season.

But will it make any difference?

Seager, like most players his age and younger, have one way of hitting a baseball, a way they have been fine-tuning since they were 10 or 11 years old. It has worked for him since then and he’s not about to change now, shifts be damned. He’s going to pull everything, try to lift everything and trust his swing.

That’s the way the game is played. Now.

For more than a century, hitting was a skill that took adjustment throughout a career. The great ones, the Ted Williams, the Babe Ruths, they didn’t adjust. But most everyone else did. As pitchers changed, so did they. If they wanted to stay in the bigs they did.

It’s not as common anymore. Asking a player like Seager to drive the ball the other way, to take advantage of what the opponent is giving up, that’s impossible. At least that’s what the players, including Seager, say.

No matter it’s been part of the game since Fats Malarkey threw the first fastball under the hands of Poky Ittoright. There might be six guys on the rightfield side of shortstop, but Seager’s plan has always been to hit it through or over them. Having the audacity to suggest a change is needed brings nothing but derision.

The body has been improved. One has to wonder, however, if the plan has as well.

•••

Gonzaga: Basketball is a big part of the Zags’ life right now. But what if it was unavailable? Jim Meehan asked the GU players what they would be doing. … The second loss to BYU will cost the women something in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee. How much is what Jim Allen tries to discover. … Gonzaga signee Brock Ravet is Washington’s all-time leading high school scorer. But he has bigger goals. … Around the WCC, BYU has a tough week as it tries to hold on to second place.

WSU: Colorado is in Pullman tonight for a showdown of two teams that are playing better. … Theo Lawson spoke with Larry Weir yesterday for the Press Box pod. … Around the Pac-12, there are many reasons for Washington’s turnaround this season. … Oregon State’s Tres Tinkle needs one more point to become the household’s top scorer. … Oregon isn’t stopping people right now and that makes Dana Altman unhappy. … Utah is in the Northwest for the Washington swing. … UCLA seems to have a backcourt that will make the next coach look good. … Arizona isn't all that good right now. And it may lose some players when the season ends. … It would help USC to hit some free throws. … The four top spots in the standings are still up for grabs. … In football news, Colorado will return its best defensive lineman. … Utah's football coach is more popular than its basketball coach. … Spring practice in the South is already underway. At least at Arizona State.

EWU and Idaho: Around the Big Sky, Northern Arizona preps for its final homestand of the season. … Montana's Ahmaad Rorie has received a lot of help in his successful career. … Weber State has a player just beginning his.

NIC: The Cardinals have more than one college prospect, but today Ryan Collingwood is focused on RayQuan Evans, a guard whose stock has risen throughout the season.

Preps: Washington’s State regionals are this weekend, with the top seeds staying close to home. Dave Nichols looks at the matchups. … The Idaho playoffs are also in full swing, and Dave was at Post Falls last night as the Trojans defeated Coeur d’Alene.

Mariners: Seager is looking good, no matter what. … The spring rotation is set. At least for the first three games.

Seahawks: If you have any questions about the punting situation, the answer is Michael Dickson. Kicker? We can't help you.

•••       

• Another early start today. One of our dogs broke a tooth recently and today is the day it has to be pulled. Poor guy. It was off to the vet early and he won’t be back until the afternoon. Is it just me, or did our parents just rub some dirt on it and tell old Smokey he was good? Until later …

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