Virginia Tech pitcher Ian Seymour was on a dominant pace to begin the 2020 college baseball season. Four starts into his junior campaign, the southpaw had racked up a 3-0 record with a 2.21 earned run average. Seymour tallied 40 strikeouts to just five walks in 20.1 innings pitched.
Unknown at the time, Seymour’s last start of the season ended with some mind-boggling numbers against Georgia Tech. The junior fanned 14 Yellow Jackets over 6.0 innings on the afternoon, setting a Hokies’ school record in an ACC regular season game.
Virginia Tech eventually won the game, 7-6 in 10 innings, to avoid a sweep, but Seymour walked away from that day frustrated at the things that didn’t go right.
“I left that game kind of upset because I walked three people and I gave up a bunch of 0-2 hits,” Seymour said over a Zoom call with reporters on Thursday. “I was actually not too happy about it. I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to get better next weekend. We have a big series against Miami. It turns out that was my last start of the year. I guess I should have enjoyed it a little bit more.”
Just a few days later all athletic-related activities were first suspended then subsequently canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seymour’s stellar season, one that saw him ranked fourth nationally with 17.7 K/9, was suddenly finished.
It was Seymour’s competitive spirit that was immediately on display after the Georgia Tech game with the three earned runs and missed opportunities on his mind, not the record-setting day on the bump. It’s that same fire that he longs for the most with baseball no longer being played.
“I think that’s the most disappointing thing about all of it. You miss competing,” Seymour said. “It’s what I love to do best, or what I love to do most in the world, is to go out there and try to strike somebody out. You’re no longer able to do that, you’re no longer able to go to the field with the guys every day. That’s really what’s the hardest part about it.”
Since the season was canceled, Seymour has been reduced to grinding with teammates and roommates Nolan Wilson and Zach Brzykcy in Blacksburg. The trio plays catch, runs sprints, does bodyweight exercises throughout the week, and throws bullpen sessions with Luke Goforth, Blacksburg High School’s catcher, on Monday and Friday.
This new routine has been a difficult adjustment in what would normally be the busiest time of the year, but it’s also opened the door to new opportunities.
“It’s so new not playing baseball in the spring,” Seymour said. “I’ve never really been in that situation since I was like seven, you know?
“I have this overload of free time that I’ve never really had before, so it’s just finding different ways to fill that. Finding different things that I’ve always been interested in. Reading, I got into yoga, I’ve been hiking and got outside a lot. Just different hobbies that normally in a time I wouldn’t be able to do because it’s overwhelmed with baseball.”
Despite the shortened season, Seymour’s performance and improvement has caught the attention of Major League scouts across the country. The 2020 MLB Draft will hold just five rounds in the uncertain times, but Seymour will still likely hear his name called. (Note: Part two of the conversation with Seymour will be released next week and will be strictly focused on the draft process).
So how did Seymour make the jump from a quality weekend starter as a freshman and sophomore to someone whose name became revered across the college baseball landscape?
“It’s definitely just refining the process between starts, refining the process from week-to-week, working on your throwing,” Seymour said. “A lot of it was just mentally I’m in my third year of college baseball. I’ve pitched on the weekends two years in a row, so nothing is going to faze me. I’m going to go after anybody. I was really, really confident coming into this year. All those things just sort of added up to starting really successful.”
Seymour oozed confidence and backed it up on the field, but just as helpful was a change to his pitch repertoire. The southpaw’s change up was always his elite pitch, but an added oomph to his fastball this year allowed him to fool even more hitters.
“I used to throw all two-seam fastballs,” Seymour said. “We got the Rapsodo, the slow-motion cameras working with [Ryan] Fecteau and Kyle Sarazin, who came on too. He’s more analytical, he can analyze all the different pitch movements and stuff like that. Last summer in the Cape too with the Y-D Red Sox, I switched to a four-seam just playing catch, and I had better command of it. There’s this thing called vertical break, which is basically if the ball wasn’t spinning the way that it was, it ends up this much higher. I have some pretty above-average metrics with that. It just creates the differential between that and my change up which resulted in a ton more swings and misses.”
The increased analytical approach to pitching also benefited Seymour immensely. With someone like Fecteau, who’s so all in with the new technology, and Sarazin, who can interpret the numbers and chart everything out, it set Seymour up for success any time he took the rubber.
“We basically have a baseline of when my pitches are spinning this way, spinning in this direction, they’re moving with these metrics, that’s where I want to be,” Seymour said. “If I’m outside the range of where I want to be, then it’s ‘OK, this must be something mechanical going on,’ but if I get hit or a pitch gets hit, then ‘OK, mechanically everything on it was sound. It was just a mistake pitch or a guy just beat me there.’
“I think it offers reassurance there. I think it also makes it easier if you’ve lost a pitch or lost feel for something, you can look back to see how it was moving, what direction it was moving, and you can regain it pretty quick.”
Virginia Tech baseball would be concluding its regular season this weekend against Louisville if not for the coronavirus. The Hokies could be fighting in the ACC standings with Seymour leading the charge in the rotation. Instead, he finds ample time on his hands in Blacksburg before heading back home to Massachusetts.
“You just miss the bonds you have with everyone,” Seymour said. “That’s the part that really gets you the most.”