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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seth McClung- Baseball's Big Red


Calling Seth McClung a big right-hander is an understatement. Listed at 6’6 and 280 pounds, and possessing his trademark fiery red hair, “Big Red” has always cut an intimidating presence on the mound. Coming out of Greenbrier East High School in Lewisburg, West Virginia, he knew that he possessed a lot of talent in his powerful right arm. Thus, he was disappointed that he slipped to the 5th round of the 1999 MLB draft and was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays, with whom he signed and started his professional career.

McClung debuted in the major leagues with Tampa in 2003. He pitched between the bullpen and the rotation, racking up a 4-1 record in 12 games (5 starts) with a 5.35 ERA. Since that time he has pitched five additional seasons at the big league level, 2005-2009, with Tampa and the Milwaukee Brewers. He has posted a 26-34 record during that time, with a 5.46 ERA in 177 games (51 starts). The best game of his career came on May 10, 2003, against the Detroit Tigers. He held them to just 1 run over 7 innings, while striking out a career high 9 batters. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mccluse01.shtml.

McClung was out of baseball in 2010, but mounted a comeback this past year, pitching for the Texas Rangers Triple-A team in Round Rock. He never got summoned to Arlington, but he has not given up on his career. He recently signed with the Brewers for 2012 on a minor league deal and will compete for a roster spot during spring training.

Even with the time and sacrifices required of a professional baseball player, McClung has found time for other pursuits. Always passionate about basketball, he became involved in coaching. From 2005-2007 he was an assistant coach with the University of Tampa women’s basketball team. He also accepted the position of head coach for the Pinellas Park High School girl’s basketball team prior to the 2010-2011 season. When he took over the team they hadn’t had a winning season since 1996 and suffered from low levels of interest. McClung has steadily rebuilt the program; after going 0-25 his first year, the team has already won 5 games in 2011-2012. It is clear that both McClung and the Pinellas Park girl’s basketball program have futures with the sport.

McClung has also begun coaching baseball. He founded Big Red Baseball (http://bigredbball.com/), whose slogan is "Better Prices than our competitors, experience beyond them." He provides pitching and team lessons to aspiring baseball players.

Given all of his interests, it’s not surprising that McClung is very connected with his fans. In addition to being very active on Twitter he recently did an interview with me. You have to check out what he had to say about his experiences in baseball.

Seth McClung Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: I lived in two places growing up, Ronceverte West Virginia and Cramerton, North Carolina. I didn't really have a favorite team growing up; I just liked baseball. I knew the Yankees were good and the Braves were on TBS every night, so those two teams were the two that I paid more attention to than the rest. 
What coach or manager has been most influential on you so far?: Lou Pinella, I would have to say. He was loud, mean, to the point, and most of all, honest. If you sucked he told you that you sucked. I can handle the old school approach. Some managers I have played for never came out and told you what you needed to hear, only what you wanted to hear. One manager I had never took responsibility for anything. He was always quick to pass off his mistakes on some stat or just plain blaming the player. Lou though didn't care what people thought about him, inside the game or out. He just wanted to win. I respect that.

Can you run through what your draft experience was like with Tampa in 1999?: Well, for me it wasn’t good. I was drafted in the fifth round, however I was projected as high as the first or supplemental round. The Braves scout told me they had their first pick in the second round and they were going to grab me. The scout then said he did not expect me to be on the board though. I had heard this from many clubs, so my expectations were high.

I was contacted by the Pirates in the third round and they asked if I would take $150,000. I told them no. I was contacted by the Marlins in the fourth round and they asked If I would take $400,000, and I said $700,000. I was then drafted by the Devil Rays in the fifth round. I did not receive word of this until 8:00 p.m. that night. I thought I had slipped to the second day of the draft and I was devastated. Once I found out I was drafted my immaturity took over and the chip on my shoulder that I have played most of my career with was created. 

What has been your favorite highlight from your career so far?: I guess pitching in the NLDS with the Brewers. A lot of things leading up to that point are highlights. 2008 was a great year for me. I will always remember it fondly. 
How have you been told when you have been called up, sent down, or released?: Yeah, called up and sent down so many times its hard to remember them all. Being sent down is hard. It is never fun, you just feel worthless when that happens. Being called up no matter when, how, or why is always an explosion of joy. You reach your dream and you have this great rush of happiness. Being released you feel anger. Every time I have been let go you want to just be a force of destruction and anger on your way out of the office, but you must remain composed and handle it well. You never know who you will need in the future. 

How does the experience of being a major league player compare to how you envisioned it as a kid?: Well, I always envisioned myself being the best of all time and winning many championships. I have fallen far from those lofty expectations. I do still see myself being a major league baseball player; I just have realistic expectations of myself. I just want to continue to compete and make a great living to take care of my family. 

If you could do anything differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I would have spent more time perfecting my craft as opposed to just throwing hard. I have been clocked as high as 103 (Toronto) but I never really knew where it was going. I would have also liked to have played for a different organization coming out of high school. Nothing against the Devil Rays; I was blessed to play for them and be in the big leagues at 22 years old, but had I been in a organization that had pitching, I would have been forced to learn more. I would have had to be better to get and stay in the bigs. This I feel would have helped me in the long run. 
What are your baseball plans for 2012?: I want to compete and help a team win a championship in the big leagues. I also want to do a book about this year and fighting my way back. I fancy myself a bit of a photographer, and I hope to take some pictures and do a book from a unique prospective.

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