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April 7, 2011

THE RIGHT FIT - After a year a Kentucky, Tech second baseman Michael Seaborn has found Virginia Tech to his liking both on and off the field

By: Marc Mullen

There has been a bit of irony to the past two season openers of the baseball season for Michael Seaborn. During both the 2010 and 2011 opening weekends, the Virginia Tech squad has played at the Caravelle Resort Tournament in Conway, S.C., a three-game event put on by Coastal Carolina University.

Last year, Seaborn was on the same field but in the opposite dugout of the school he originally played for coming out of high school – the University of Kentucky. He transferred from Kentucky, the Hokies’ opening day opponent, after three semesters in Lexington.

To open the 2011 season, the Hokies took on the Big 10 Conference’s Indiana Hoosiers, a team in which Seaborn’s best friend from high school, Sterling Mack, had played. During the time Seaborn was looking to transfer, he visited and considered Indiana, so he could have been in that dugout this year.

“I was looking at a couple different schools, and I went on a visit up to Indiana and met the coaches and met a lot of the players. But it just didn’t seem like it was the right fit,” Seaborn said. “I came here [Virginia Tech] on my next visit, and it was over Thanksgiving break, so I didn’t get to meet a lot of the guys, but I went to the football game.

“It was freezing cold, but they played Miami, and they blew them out. Ever since I stepped on campus, I’ve loved it here. As soon as I stepped on the campus, I told my parents this was the place I wanted to go. The campus caught my eye, the football game was awesome, and I really liked the coaches. It really seemed like the perfect fit.”

Not only has it been the perfect fit for Seaborn, but also the fifth-year senior second baseman has been a perfect fit for the Hokies. The native of Atlanta, Ga., came into the baseball program during the mid-semester break, joining the team in January of 2008. That first season, he made 45 starts in the 55-game season, with 41 coming at third base.

The next season, however, is when he found his spot, and he has not relinquished it in more than 120 straight games. Making 15 early starts during his sophomore year, between third and second, he found himself on the bench to start a game against Georgia Tech on March 22.

The starting second baseman that day was Tony Balisteri, and in the bottom of the second inning, Balisteri was hit by a pitch and took first base. However, in the top of the third, Seaborn trotted out to second and finished the game with four assists and went 1-for-3 at the plate, with an RBI and a run scored.

The next day, and every game since, he has been penned in as the Hokies’ starting second baseman.

Michael Seaborn has been a mainstay in Tech�s lineup since transferring from Kentucky, having started every game the past two seasons.

“I’ve always had confidence in myself, and I’m just blessed that Coach [Pete] Hughes gave me the opportunity to step in and play right away,” Seaborn said. “I had heard that Tech needed an extra infielder, so that was another one of the reasons I wanted to come here to get a chance to play, and I am thankful for Coach Hughes for giving me the opportunity to play. And I’ve tried to make the most of it while I’ve been here.”

Seaborn mentioned playing time as one of his biggest hurdles at Kentucky, but was also thankful for the fact that he redshirted his freshman year. He understood the reasoning and the chance it gave him to learn from the older guys.

“I loved Kentucky as a school. I loved the guys on the team, and the school was good. I liked everything about it,” he said. “I just felt it was hard to play relaxed there and be able to play your own game. I felt like the coaches put a lot of pressure on their players.

“I got redshirted there my freshman year, and I learned a lot from the older guys. I was able to take a lot away from them. They had won the SEC the year before I got there, and they had a lot of returners coming back. It would have been tough for me to play a lot my freshman year. So, looking back, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened, getting redshirted and being able to play an extra year here at Virginia Tech.”

Coming to Tech, Seaborn joined a tremendous crop of players as part of Hughes’ first class. A number of them, as has been well documented, ended up becoming the largest class of Hokies ever selected in the Major League Draft in one year.

Seaborn and those teammates also helped Tech to its first ACC tournament appearance since becoming a member of the conference and advance to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1999.

“I came in with Austin Wates, Jesse Hahn, Justin Wright, all those guys were all freshmen when I came in halfway through, right after Christmas,” Seaborn said. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew that this team had a lot of talent. And obviously that was something I was looking forward to, not only a great coaching staff, but also a team that was going to win.”

And last year, they did.

“It was a fun year, to say the least,” Seaborn said. “The team got along really well, and we played really well. Everywhere we went, we just knew we were going to win. We just had that confidence. Everyone believed in one another, and as soon as we stepped on the field, we knew from the first pitch that we were going to win that game. I couldn’t have asked for anything more – other than maybe getting to Omaha.

“All of last year was great, but what I consider my greatest moment is my entire college baseball career. I wanted to go to a good academic school, a big school that had big-time football, and play in one of the best baseball conferences in America. And I’ve been able to do that.”

Michael Seaborn, who is Tech�s active leader in career homers, plans on pursuing a career in business following his graduation this spring.

Academics play an important role for Seaborn, and he takes it seriously. He will graduate this May with a degree in finance, and he plans on returning to Atlanta after graduation to pursue his career after baseball. He has twice been an All-ACC Academic team selection and has made the Dean’s List every semester since transferring to Tech.

“I take pride in my academics,” he said. “Ever since I was young, I’ve always been a perfectionist. My mom always gives me a hard time about it. When I was little, if I would be coloring and if I would go outside the lines, I would want a new sheet of paper.

“I’ve always been that kind of guy, so maybe baseball isn’t the right sport for me. When you can get three hits out of 10 and be in the Hall of Fame … I have always been a perfectionist when it comes to grades or baseball. Any sport that I’ve always played, I’ve wanted to be the best at it.”

At 5-foot-7, 172 pounds, there might not be many “right” sports for Seaborn. That isn’t a slight. He even admitted he stopped playing high school football after his sophomore year because he knew there wasn’t a future there for him.

But he is relentless in the weight room, earning three “elite athlete” honors for his dedication, and he was a 2011 nominee for the All-American Strength and Conditioning Athletes of the Year. He credits that devotion for how he has been able to help out his game.

“Even though I’m not the tallest guy out there, I try to be just as strong,” he said. “That’s one thing that I’ve always worked hard on and stay on top of.”

Going back to the season opener, the second-smallest guy on the roster – the smallest now falls on 5-5 third baseman Johnny Morales – came into the season as the clubhouse leader in career home runs.

And despite those new bats – which Seaborn is a fan of, “I kind of like it. It isn’t all about who can just go up there and hit the farthest ball, and I think it’s better for the game,” – Seaborn knocked out a first-inning home run against the Chanticleers for the 23rd of his career.

Ironically, his double-play mate, fifth-year senior shortstop Tim Smalling – a teammate who also shares the same October 14, 1987, birthday – are now tied for the team career high in home runs.

Needless to say, Smalling, who has started almost 80 games as the Hokie shortstop, and Seaborn will be sorely missed up the middle when the Hokies take the field wherever they play their season opener in 2012.