When the college baseball season was abruptly cut short in the middle of March due to COVID-19, many players packed it up and moped around, accepting the fact that there were no more games to be played. That mentality never sank in with Virginia Tech’s Ian Seymour, though.
Instead, the southpaw remained in Blacksburg and attacked his workout regimen and training with a tenacity within the confines of what was reasonable in the midst of the pandemic. The typical player was mentally checked out at that point, but Seymour was as engaged as ever.
“I just watched him work out over the last four months since this COVID thing and you would have thought that he was preparing to start in four days against Miami or Duke or something,” said Virginia Tech head coach John Szefc. “He wasn’t. There was no Miami or Duke, but if you watched him go about his daily business, he stayed on campus as far as him working out or throwing bullpens or whatever, you would have thought that that guy was getting ready to pitch against the Yankees or something.”
It’s what separates a guy like Seymour from the rest of the pack and part of the reason why he was selected 57th overall in the second round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays last week.
Seymour became the seventh-highest draft pick in Hokies’ history when he received the call surrounded by family and friends at his home in Massachusetts. He was also the highest player drafted from Virginia Tech since Joe Saunders was taken 12th overall in 2002 by the then Anaheim Angels.
“I’m so excited, especially to be at an organization like the Rays that’s just known for developing pitchers. A very analytical team,” Seymour said. “I’m super interested in all of that type of stuff. I couldn’t be more excited.
“It’s awesome. It’s nice to see the countless hours you put into something that you love come true. Obviously it’s just another step, so the goal right now is to make it to the big leagues. Kind of focusing on that.”
Seymour plans to fly down to Tampa Bay on Thursday. It’s there where he will officially sign with the organization that’s spearheaded by general manager Erik Neander, a 2005 graduate of Virginia Tech.
“That was so cool that he went to Virginia Tech,” Seymour said. “He called me after I got picked and just congratulated me. I told him I was excited to be there. He just said that they would be in touch with further steps from there on. It was awesome that I have that connection with him. I just think I’m in a really good spot and I couldn’t be any happier with where I am.”
The junior starter made a serious impression this past summer in the Cape Cod League where he battled some of the best players in the college ranks and struck out 39 over 25.1 innings pitched with just six walks and a 2.48 ERA.
It’s here where the scouts’ ears perked up anytime Seymour took the bump, as the Westborough native quickly established himself as someone who belonged on draft boards across the country.
“I always had the dream of playing Major League Baseball, but the reality of that fact probably didn’t set in until last summer when I was pitching in the Cape and had so much success there,” Seymour said. “Then I realized I could do something with this. I belong amongst these guys and all those types of things.”
That confidence never faded. Seymour was filthy in the 2020 campaign, going 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA. He fanned 40 batters in 20.1 innings pitched, walking just five along the way earning him a Third Team All-American honor by Collegiate Baseball.
Armed with a fastball in the lower 90’s, a plus-plus change up, and a steadily improving breaking pitch, Szefc came away more impressed with the intangibles that Seymour flashed on a daily basis than the physical attributes that dazzled.
“He is super competitive,” Szefc said. “I can’t even quantitate to you how competitive he is whether he’s in the weight room or whether he’s ping pong or golf. Whatever it is that he does, it’s going to be difficult to beat him at something because he’s going to wear you out to beat you at whatever it is. There’s a lot to say for that because when you match up his ability with that mentality, you’re going to really have a difficult time beating that person.”
It didn’t stop there, either. Seymour proved to be a savant with brainpower in the classroom majoring in biology or in film study with the team that was a boon for the Hokies.
“It’s not like he’s just some average intellect person,” Szefc said. “He’s very intelligent and he’s going to figure out a way to beat you one way or another. He’s going to figure it out. He’s going to watch you, he’s going to study you, and he’s going to understand what is his best way to get to your weakness. Then when you match up his different level ability with that mentality, you got something pretty good right there.”
There could have been added pressure to the 2020 season with it being Seymour’s first draft-eligible year and the expectations that were placed on him as the workhorse of the staff. He could have faltered with the expectations that were placed on him following the standout summer, but instead Seymour ramped it up a notch, took it all in stride, and relied on the intangibles that set him apart in the first place.
“A lot of that just goes into the process week to week,” Seymour said. “Being able to map out a plan for the whole season and just sticking to that. You really don’t think about any pressure of being drafted. You just go out and have fun on the days that you pitch and compete the way that I love to. I was as prepared as I possibly could have been developing those plans all offseason, developing those plans week to week, just all of that stuff added up to making me as confident as possible and having success while still having fun.”
That plan of attack was never more apparent than in Seymour’s final start in college baseball against Georgia Tech. The legendary outing has already long been discussed as the southpaw made the Yellow Jacket hitters look silly with 14 strikeouts in 6.0 innings.
Remember this outing?
— Virginia Tech Baseball (@HokiesBaseball) June 14, 2020
Anyone watching that game knew Seymour was destined for a career in baseball beyond college.
“You could say, ‘OK, I can see that guy being a Major Leaguer.’ You don’t say that about too many guys because you have to be so good nowadays to do that,” Szefc said. “He’s special not just because of how physically talented he is, but as far as his personality and who he is. That’s not just coming from me as a coach. A lot of players would echo that same feeling.
“He just completely got out there and said, ‘This is how this game is going to go as long as I’m out here.’ That’s how it went. It wasn’t even a contest for six innings. You can’t even argue it.”
Despite an affinity for the Red Sox rooted in nearly everyone from the New England area, Seymour was never a fan of any particular team. His recent summers were often spent watching the premier pitchers in today’s game like Max Scherzer, Gerrit Cole, Jacob DeGrom, and Chris Sale when he wasn’t pitching or training himself. Now, he’ll get the chance to work toward the same level of those greats while doing the one thing he knows how to do best.
“Nothing that I’ve ever done quite excites me like playing baseball,” Seymour said. “I wake up every morning excited to work out. I wake up every morning excited to go throw. I think about it all the time. There’s just a feeling out there competing that I can’t really match in anything else that I do.”