Ian Seymour was basking in the midst of one of the more joyous days of one’s life when he heard the news that quickly shifted the emotions of that day. It was Seymour’s high school graduation, and the next pitstop for the talented lefthanded pitcher would be Virginia Tech.
Or so he thought.
That day he received the news that Virginia Tech head baseball coach Pat Mason was fired at the conclusion of the 2017 season. The connection between Seymour and Mason was strong as the duo were both Massachusetts natives.
“I was kind of like, ‘Oh man, what do I do now? Do I still go?’ I loved the school, I wanted to come here,” Seymour said during a Zoom call last week. “I just wasn’t sure, sometimes with a new coaching staff they don’t want the same players that were recruited under the old coaching staff and stuff like that.”
However, another connection from the Northeast formed on Virginia Tech’s new coaching staff under head coach John Szefc. Incoming pitching coach Ryan Fecteau had spent six years at Bryant University in Rhode Island, which was less than an hour drive from Seymour’s hometown in Westborough, Mass. leading to a sense of familiarity.
Szefc, Fecteau and Co. welcomed Seymour, and the southpaw stuck with his commitment to the Hokies. Three years later after a dominant junior season that was cut short, Seymour could soon come upon the opportunity of a lifetime by hearing his name called in the 2020 MLB Draft.
“It would be a dream come true,” Seymour said. “You grow up hoping to play professional baseball, hoping to make it to the big leagues. That’s the result of a lot of work over the years. If that were to be something that would happen, that would be very exciting.”
This year’s MLB Draft comes under some peculiar circumstances, however. The MLB Draft is typically the biggest draft in all of professional sports, lasting 40 rounds. This year the event occurring on June 10-11 will only consist of five rounds following an agreement between the MLB and MLBPA as a result of cash flow problems from COVID-19.
The new format dramatically dwindles the amount of players who could fulfill a dream with their selection in the MLB Draft.
“It’s definitely disappointing if playing professional baseball is your dream, but I’m not really the kind of person to dwell on things like that,” Seymour said. “I want to put myself in the best position I can be to be the best player that I can be. I really just focus on that in the day-to-day basis. I try not to worry about the things that are out of my control.”
Still, even with the shortened format, Seymour is expected to be selected. Several mock drafts have the Hokies’ ace picked in the second or third round. Even with the security that Seymour will more than likely be drafted in less than a month, he hasn’t made a decision yet if he’s all-in with the draft or if he’ll return to Blacksburg.
“It’s hard to say that,” Seymour said. “I haven’t had that talk with my family or the coaches here yet or anything like that. It’s more so just in a position of staying healthy right now, staying prepared for the next time I would have to throw. At this point, I’m just really waiting to see what happens. I can’t really answer one way or another if I feel like my college career is done or if I’m totally going no matter what or if I’ll even be drafted. It’s hard to say.”
The pandemic has adversely affected a number of components with the draft. Scouts aren’t able to travel anymore, and the players haven’t been able to showcase all of their abilities with the canceled season, but the advancement of technology has provided an outlet.
“[The scouts] all have the Synergy app, so they can watch games from last year, watch games from this year,” Seymour said. “It filters all the pitches that I threw, so if they want to watch all change ups, they can filter it so they can see every single change up I threw this year. If they want to look at fastballs or even see a spot in the strike zone where I threw pitches, they can filter it that way. There’s a lot of technology nowadays that allows more scouting just based on what they have instead of going to actual games and watching actual games.”
So how did Seymour start to get on the radar of MLB scouts and front offices? It all began with a standout summer in the Cape Cod League, the nation’s premier summer college league, in 2019. As a member of the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, Seymour went 2-2 with a 2.48 earned run average in five starts. He fanned 39 batters and walked just six in 25.2 innings pitched.
“Last summer for sure I really had every pitch going for me the whole time,” Seymour said. “I really was successful up there, and that’s really where guys build their resume for the draft. I feel like that’s definitely where things started to pick up for me.”
Seymour carried that momentum into the 2020 regular season and was on a historic pace for the Hokies with a 17.7 K/9 metric that was fourth in the nation before his junior campaign was ended.
Over his three years in Blacksburg, Seymour has gone from a crafty lefty with his fastball-change up combo, to a more complete pitcher with a cutter and breaking ball now in his arsenal. Strength and conditioning coach Brian Neal got the most out of the Virginia Tech pitcher, as Seymour’s seen his fastball increase in velocity from mid-to-upper 80’s as a freshman to consistently 90-93 and topping out at 94 mph in the 2020 campaign.
“It’s just really committing yourself to getting bigger, getting stronger, moving well, all those things play a huge part,” Seymour said. “What you eat every day plays a huge part. Just learning new pitches, getting sharper with those pitches, and committing to a process week-to-week I think is the biggest thing.
“My freshman year I really didn’t have a routine between starts, a routine before the game even, and at this point I had that week scheduled down pretty much every single day I knew what I was going to eat, I knew if I was going to lift, if I was running, how many throws was I going to make. It’s pretty exact in terms of what I would do every day. I think that’s the biggest difference, just maturity in terms of all those areas that allowed me to grow so much over these three years.”
Seymour has done all he can do for the time being to place his best foot forward and show potential MLB suitors what he’s all about. He’s developed into one of the biggest risers on the draft board, and now he has a chance to become the highest Hokie drafted since Mark Zagunis (third round) in 2014.
“You never really know what’s going to happen,” Seymour said. “I feel like the whole thing is really random. At the end of the day I did everything I could to prepare for the season, to prepare to put myself in the best position for success, so I just have to be happy with that. Whatever happens I’m OK with.”