SEATTLE – With a sold-out crowd chanting his name and tears filling his eyes as he hugged his teammates and walked off of T-Mobile Park for the final time, Kyle Seager bid farewell to the only organization he’d known in his distinguished baseball career.
But little did anyone know at the time, other than Seager and those close to him, it was also a goodbye to Major League Baseball.
On Wednesday, Seager’s wife, Julie, posted a message from her husband on her Twitter account:
“Today I’m announcing my retirement from Major League Baseball. Thank you to all of my family, friends and fans for following me throughout my career. It’s been a wonderful ride but I am unbelievably excited for the next chapter of my life.”
Reached via text message at his home in rural North Carolina, Seager said he went into that final game knowing it would be his last.
“I knew I was saying goodbye to baseball at that time,” he said. “I knew if we got eliminated that would be the last time I played baseball. I knew it was my last at-bats, I knew it was my last ground balls, my last innings. All those thoughts were in my head. I had so many emotions going on that day. My family being out for the pregame pitch was magical. I got very emotional very early in the day!”
The M’s were mathematically eliminated from the postseason in the seventh inning of an eventual loss to the Angels. Seager was removed from the game during the top of the ninth in a touching and emotional scene.
“I also wanted to win so badly to break that drought and get the fans up there what they’ve been missing for so long,” he said. “I was able to get an amazing send-off from the fans. That hit me in my core. I felt so embraced by the fans up there and I wanted to so badly to give them what they deserved.”
Thoughts of retirement first started creeping into his mind before the 2021 season. He knew the Mariners weren’t going to pick up his $20 million club option for 2022 and it would be his last season with the only organization he’d known.
“I honestly was thinking about it back in spring training,” he said. “It honestly was an easy decision. As much as I love baseball, it was time. I’m ready to be home with my family. I’ll miss a lot of people and aspects of the game, but I am ready to start the next chapter of my life.”
The current lockout and the uncertainty of the future played no role in that decision.
“No, my mind was made up before the year was over,” he said. “The lockout and all the uncertainty is not good for baseball, but I knew I was done long before all this.”
At the MLB general managers meetings in November, there were rumblings that Seager, who turned 34 on Nov. 3, was considering retirement for a variety of reasons — the unstable future of baseball, an uncertain free-agent market that expected to be delayed until early February and the call of spending more time with his wife and three young children.
But most baseball insiders believed that Seager’s love of the game and competition, the absence of a postseason appearance on his list of career achievements and his strong 2021 season would be lead him to signing at least a one-year contract for a contending team in need of a veteran hitter. There was some speculation he might join his brother, Corey, with the Rangers.
Several teams had strong interest in signing him to fill a needed role, but he was resolute in his decision.
“I was really honored how much interest there was from other teams,” he said. “It definitely made me feel good, but it also at the same time let me know how positive I was in my decision.”
The grind of preparing for another season, which started earlier and earlier each offseason with every year he got older, kept him away from his family for hours a day. He had to work harder to be ready to play up to his expectations.
“My priorities have absolutely changed,” he said. “My family is growing and I’m missing more and more and that wasn’t something I was willing or needed to do anymore.”
Because of federal labor laws surrounding the current lockout by MLB, the Mariners as an organization couldn’t comment on Seager’s decision at this time.
He had a solid final season for Seattle, playing in 159 games and posting a .212/.285/.438 slash line with 29 doubles, a triple, 35 home runs, 101 RBIs, 59 walks and 161 strikeouts. He admittedly focused on power and producing runs for a top-heavy lineup that struggled to score all season. The approach sunk his batting average to a career low for a full season, but also resulted in career-high totals in homers and RBIs. He was named a finalist for the American League Silver Slugger award at third base.
Selected in third round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina and projected to be a utility/bench player, Seager made his MLB debut on July 7, 2011. He took control of the third-base job in 2012 and became an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2014. He signed a seven-year, $100 million extension after the 2014 season.
In 10½ big league seasons with the Mariners, Seager played in 1,480 games and posting a .251/.321/.442 slash line with 309 doubles, 14 triples, 242 homers and 807 RBIs. He had nine seasons of at least 20 homers, tying Ken Griffey Jr. for the most in franchise history.
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