Scott Seabol was irritated at first. As a versatile infielder and pretty good hitter at West Virginia, he was hoping Major League Baseball scouts would see something in his 6-4, 200-pound body of work worth more than a throw-away 88th-round pick in the 1996 draft.
That’s right, back then the MLB draft went well beyond the 40 rounds in the current format.
Soft drink machines and grandmothers were not quite selected in the 88th round but Seabol is an underdog for the ages, one of the most unlikely major league veterans in baseball history.
“You can take any situation and use it to your advantage,” said Seabol, 42, the Charleston RiverDogs’ hitting coach this season. “As my career went on and I progressed I became very proud of the fact that I was such a low draft pick and was able to get to the big leagues.”
All of the Class A South Atlantic League players who assemble Thursday night for the RiverDogs’ home opener against the Kannapolis Intimidators (7:05 p.m. at Riley Park) can find credibility when Seabol offers his “trust the process” catch phrase.
See Seabol sink to the depths of a draft process, down where forgotten names get a few hundred bucks and a bus ticket before they wash out in a month or two (Seabol shrewdly negotiated a $5,000 bonus).
See Seabol make the majors.
Not once, but in 2001 with the New York Yankees and in 2005 with the St. Louis Cardinals, after a second long climb up the minor league ladder.
At the time, Seabol was the lowest-drafted player ever to reach the majors; former RiverDogs pitcher Travis Phelps as an 89th-round Tampa Bay Rays pick in 1996 and got to Tampa Bay in 2001.
“If players can use it as motivation, great,” Sealbol said. “And I still use it as motivation today. If you believe in yourself, that’s the most important thing.”
That should play well with a first-round pick or a Dominican player who got a fat signing bonus, or with a 35th-round pick or a free agent from Manitoba.
Even better coming from an 88th-round pick from Pittsburgh, whose wife Diana is the biggest Steelers fan in the family. The couple has twin 13-year-old boys and an eight-year-old daughter.
Pinch-hitting for the Yankees
Seabol early in his minor-league ascent spent three straight seasons in the South Atlantic League with Greensboro, finally breaking through in 1999 with 15 homers and a .315 batting average in 608 plate appearances.
His Major League debut, however, was less than the typical “cup of coffee.”
More like a Starbucks sip.
Seabol got one at-bat for the Yankees in 2001, on April 8 in a 16-5 victory over Toronto at Yankee Stadium.
He pinch-hit for David Justice facing Blue Jays reliever Dan Plesac, now an MLB Network analyst.
“He gave me some pitches to hit,” Seabol said. “I just didn’t hit them.”
Pop up to second base.
Demotion to triple-A.
Seabol scrapped his way through the Milwaukee Brewers and Cardinals organizations to earn 105 at-bats over 59 games with St. Louis in 2005. Though Seabol hit only .219, he played second base, third base, first base, left field, right field and was a designated hitter, pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.
Best part: Seabol got to play for Tony La Russa in St. Louis and Joe Torre in New York, a pair of Hall of Fame managers.
“I was very fortunate,” Seabol said. “Not only did I get to play in the two best organizations but I got to be around the two best managers. I have great respect for both of those guys. Two different types of managers but both top-of-the-list. Just knowing how to be professional and then how to teach people to be professional — that’s what I’ve learned from the Yankees and Cardinals.”
An MLB homer
As you might imagine, Seabol remembers his lone major league home run very well.
It came on June 12, 2005 — against the Yankees at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
Pinch-hitting with the Cardinals down 2-1, Seabol took Tanyon Sturtze over the wall and knocked in Yadier Molina to put St. Louis ahead by a run. The Cardinals held on to win, 5-3, before 50,372 fans.
“Definitely my best moment in baseball,” Seabol said.
Since receiving a telegram in 1996 informing him of the Yankees’ 88th-round draft selection, Seabol has gone with the day-to-day approach.
“I just kept working and never really looked at the big-league goal,” he said. “The main goal at that moment was just to do as well as I could where I was at.”
It’s probably a tale that could land an inspirational book contract and speaking tour.
It’s certainly something that should translate into motivating low-level minor leaguers.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff