This might be the definition of damning with faint praise, but Kyle Seager’s Mariners tenure will forever be linked with the past decade of baseball in Seattle. He arrived as a baby-faced, flaxen-haired youth from UNC, and departed a slightly more grizzled-faced, less-haired man after eleven years of solid production, punching the time card at third base while surrounded largely by plodding mediocrity punctuated with the occasional burst of competent-to-exciting baseball. In a decade that saw the Mariners swing through competition cycles, as players came and went more frequently than corner teriyaki joints, Seager was the steady heartbeat of baseball in Seattle, providing highlight reel plays in key, high-stakes moments—but also in lost seasons, in smaller moments that nonetheless loomed large thanks to the consistent quality Seager provided every day, both as a player and as a person. Here are 11 of our favorite moments, one for every year of his Mariners career.
11. Kyle Seager’s final hit as a Mariner
Seager’s final game as a Mariner had some iconic moments–his son Crue throwing out the first pitch, him holding third base aloft, the shots of the Seager family, the standing ovation when he came out of the game–but the game itself was kind of a stinker. I nominate we scrub the final game from the collective consciousness of Mariners fans and instead treat as Seager’s final game the 6-4 win over Anaheim the day before. True to form, Seager didn’t have the big hit in this game–that goes to Mitch Haniger’s go-ahead single in the eighth–but his RBI single directly afterward kept the party going and created more space in a tight game, allowing Drew Steckenrider to come in and shut the door. Seager retires with 807 RBI, fourth in Mariners history. Number 807 wasn’t an especially loud RBI, but that seems appropriate for the staid Seager’s final hit as a Mariner.
10. Historic Grand Slam
The 2013 Mariners were putrid, ending up 20 games under .500 in the season, but the 2013 season did offer a signature Kyle Seager moment. The Mariners were playing the equally putrid Chicago White Sox and went into the 14th inning tied at zero before Danny Farquhar and Hector Noesi gave up a combined five runs, but the Mariners rebounded in the bottom half of the inning against Addison Reed. After three straight singles to lead off the inning, Endy Chavez drove in the first Mariner run on a single, setting up Kyle Seager to make some history as he became the first player ever to hit a game-tying grand slam in extra innings. Of course, what makes this a signature Seager moment is that the Mariners went on to lose despite Seager’s heroics, as Hector Noesi continued to Hector Noesi and the Mariners offense continued to Mariners offense, but at least Seager can always say he was the first.
9. Those spine-crushing Nelson Cruz hugs
A non-baseball highlight, and a non-specific moment, but the Tender Hugs between Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz demand to be acknowledged.
This one is just like a pure boost of oxytocin through your screen:
Sometimes the hugs weren’t so tender but still very loving:
Honorable mention in the non-baseball teammates category: Kyle Seager and Carlos Ruíz shouting animals at each other.
Kyle Seager and Chooch ritual before every game. Who can name more animals? - Seager y Ruiz ritual antes del juego. Quien nombra más? pic.twitter.com/0rYn3l6Jjn— Manny Acta (@MannyActa14) September 27, 2017
8. Seager saves Díaz’s bacon
The 2016 season had all kinds of ups and downs, with the Mariners starting out strong before falling apart in June and muddling through July. They rebounded in August, however, going on a hot streak punctuated by a win against the Angels on August 16 that seemed to sum up their entire season: a back-and-forth affair that ended when Seager made a dazzling defensive stop to bail out a floundering Edwin Díaz. Díaz had already surrendered a run to bring the score to an uncomfortably close 4-3 and the Angels were threatening, with the bases loaded after an intentional walk to Pujols. Díaz struck out Kole Calhoun for the second out, bringing up Andrelton Simmons, who chopped a soft grounder to the right of Seager. Seager hustled over, collected the ball and threw to first: the sight simultaneously familiar and comforting even as it was fresh and new. It’s that duality I’ll miss the most from seeing Seager hold down the hot corner, the excitement of watching the play unfold while secure in knowing what the result would be.
7. A new team dad is born
The 2015 season was cursed from the moment that ill-fated Sports Illustrated cover flew up from the depths of hell and onto magazine racks, but there was the occasional bright spot, one of which occurred on May 26th. The 2015 Mariners were doing everything they could to lose a game against the Rays; meanwhile, Kyle Seager was doing everything he could to win the game, having started off the game with an RBI single before crushing a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth. After a particularly rough go on the Fernando Rodney Express left the game tied, Seager looked at the possibility of playing more than one extra inning in the Trop, sighed, and volunteered to drive the carpool home.
On this day Kyle Seager truly became Team Dad, apologies to Seth Smith.
6. Walking off the Astros in 2014
It’s a toss-up as to whether Kyle Seager’s best season was 2016 or 2014, but by accolades alone–his lone Gold Glove award and All-Star appearance–it’s 2014. Seager’s strong play spurred the 2014 Mariners, who found themselves in playoff contention going into the All Star Break, with over a 50% chance of making the playoffs going into July. But the season started out much differently: the 2014 Mariners were predicted to be lousy despite the addition of Robinson Canó, with the Astros and Mariners fighting it out for the cellar of the AL West. It looked like the Astros would be the ones to emerge on top, as the season started out with the Mariners almost getting swept at home by the at-the-time-lowly Astros. But Seager, perhaps understanding this would be the last time the Mariners would get to romp over the Astros in the division for the next decade, salvaged one game out of the series with a walkoff home run:
5. Seager’s big day in the big city
This one was a toss-up between two career-high Seager moments: his three-home run game against the Tigers in 2019 and the combo plate performance (home run, two triples and a double) against the Yankees in 2014. While there’s an effusive elegance to a three-homer game (even if one of the homers came thanks to some decidedly less elegant play, apologies to Niko Goodrum), the Yankees game gets the nod for a few reasons: playoff implications, quality of opponent, and the fact that Seager became the first-ever Mariner with that particular line on a day.
4. Double the Seagers, double the dingers
Family is everything to Seager, so while the two Seager brothers hitting homers in a meaningless intra-divisional game between the mighty Dodgers and wimpy Mariners in a pandemic-shortened season might not register as highly for the average Seattle sports fan, this moment gets a high spot on the list in deference to the man himself, who always puts family first.
3. Saving Paxton’s no-hitter
The old saw is there’s always a play like this in every no-hitter, a sparkling defensive gem that saves the no-hitter for the pitcher. Seager’s came in the seventh inning of a game that James Paxton was otherwise dominating, the 109 MPH hot shot off the bat of Kevin Pillar the only real threat to Paxton’s no-no. This wasn’t the first sparkling defensive play Seager made in service of a no-hitter–he also made an excellent catch in foul territory during Iwakuma’s no-hitter–but it was the most high-stakes play he made in service of the three no-hitters (including Félix’s perfecto) in which he took part.
.@AngieMentink called it amazing. Here is the play from Kyle Seager to end the 7th and keep the no-hitter alive for James Paxton. #WHEREiROOT #TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/MwcXGXKygp— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) May 9, 2018
2. Two Angry Men
While not highlighting a great play on the field, this is nonetheless the most GIF-worthy moment of Seager’s lengthy career: famously mild-mannered Seager getting absolutely shirty with famously slow-paced Jered Weaver. It’s so iconic, Matthew dubbed it a “defining moment of the decade” for the Mariners. Kyle Seager wasn’t one to throw around his weight unnecessarily, but after paying his dues and doing things the right way and a thousand other sports cliches, it’s clear the veteran expected a certain level of respect out of fellow veteran Jered Weaver. It’s also equally clear that Weaver, who had been toiling a half-decade longer than Seager in the bigs, expected a little more subservience from Kyle Seager. This clash of expectations led to one of history’s greatest Baseball Tiffs, and the birth of new folk hero Kyle “F^#$ing Ready” Seager.
The fact that Kyle Seager spent his career shackled to largely uninspiring Mariners teams is mostly remarked upon for the noticeable lack of playoffs, but another effect of toiling in obscurity in what the national media landscape generally regards as South Alaska, combined with Seager’s own allergy to social media or self-promotion of any kind, is the amount of Kyle Seager moments we were robbed of when the cameras weren’t rolling. Instead, like the wind, most of what we know about Seager the person comes from secondhand sources, or seeing the impression he leaves on teammates. It’s the warm comments Daniel Vogelbach leaves on Julie Seager’s instagram, the tears rolling freely down J.P. Crawford’s face on the last day of the season, the way Seager’s name always seems to come up from rookies and minor leaguers alike when they talk about the players who taught them how to navigate the majors or their first spring with the big-league team. It’s entirely likely, although also entirely fitting, that Kyle Seager’s greatest moment as a Mariner isn’t one most, if any, fans saw. So the number one spot is reserved not for one moment, but for the culmination of all the small moments acquired over a decade of dedication to his craft, his teammates, and the fans he played in front of during his time in Seattle, many of whom grew into adulthood right alongside him.