Top 100 Baseball Blog

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seth Conner: Toronto Blue Jays' Catching Prospect Enjoying His Baseball Journey

In baseball, the glitz and glamour of major leaguers can sometimes make the profession appear to be both charmed and carefree. However, for the majority of professional players, that’s far from the case. Many play for the love of the game, hoping that one day they might get an opportunity to attain the highest level of their craft.

Toronto Blue Jays’ catching prospect Seth Conner is one of the young players currently on his baseball journey; putting in the work and obtaining the experiences necessary to hopefully one day get him to the majors.

Conner was a 41st-round draft pick of Toronto in 2010 out of Logan-Rogersville High school in Rogersville, Missouri.

In three seasons since joining the Toronto organization, he has reached as high as Single-A (in 2013) and combined to hit .248 with six home runs, 66 RBIs and a .359 OBP in 152 games. More information on his statistics can be found here.

Originally an infielder, he was converted to catcher in 2012 and has made steady progress at his new position.

Last spring, Conner answered some questions about his career. He is very reflective of his baseball experiences, and his answers are well worth the read. If you want to continue following this Toronto prospect as a new season dawns, make sure to find him on Twitter. He is definitely somebody worth rooting for.

Seth Conner Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up had to be Albert Pujols. Growing up as a Cardinal fan in southwest Missouri, I quickly became a fan of Pujols, the Redbird slugger, when he came up in 2001 when I was 9. He was my favorite player not only because of his on field stats, but also because of his off the field character and reputation. I also identified with him when I read that he used his draft position as motivation to work harder and succeed.

How much influence did your family have on you becoming a baseball player?: My family is great! They are a huge part of why I've had success growing up playing, and why I have success now. Since I was two, my dad (Terry) has had a bat in my hands, and my mom (Corinne), and brother (Christian) have been there cheering me on along the way.

The great part about my family is I know they love me unconditionally, regardless of whether I'm playing baseball or not.  They taught me that my faith in Christ is the most important thing in this life, but gave me every opportunity to succeed and play as long as I loved the game and remained passionate about it. They cared more about my character and that I would work hard and do my very best whatever I set out to do. I had hitting lessons growing up and eventually, once I was in high school, was selected to play for the Midwest Nationals coached by Randy Merryman, who helped me get my foot in the door.

Can you describe what your draft experience was like?: My draft experience was a little bit of a crazy one. The start of my senior year of high school, I wasn't even thinking about professional baseball or getting drafted. I signed with Jefferson County Community College and working to get a Division-One scholarship, not getting drafted.

Coach Merryman was a bird dog scout for the Texas Rangers and had a good relationship with some of the professional scouts in the area. After doing a couple of showcases, the idea of me being potentially drafted became real and not just a dream.

My three big teams were the Blue Jays, Giants, and Royals. A cross-checker with the Blue Jays, named Brandon Mozely, lived in my area and had watched me play since my sophomore year and liked me. That helped, since he was higher than an area scout and going to be in the draft room on draft day. I really thought I was going to go somewhere in rounds 15-30, but slipped all the way to the 41st round and was drafted by the Blue Jays.

I was honored to just be drafted but honestly thought I was going to go to college. When I got the phone call that I had been drafted, I was in a local sporting goods store searching for an aluminum bat for summer ball.

I actually signed with the Blue Jays seven minutes before the twelve o'clock deadline on August 17th. The Blue Jays were trying to sign their higher top-ten round picks, and were waiting to see if they had any money even available. I was blessed to have the opportunity to sign and I am very thankful the Blue Jays gave me the chance to pursue my dream. So, my draft process was a little hectic, but it worked out in the end and I am a proud Toronto Blue Jay.

In hindsight, how do you feel about your decision to go pro rather than continuing with school?: You always wonder a little bit if you made the right decision (especially if things aren't going well), but for me, choosing to go pro was the right choice and what I wanted to do. I have buddies who are in college, and while I do hope to go back and get my education, I think from a development side pro ball was definitely the right choice. It is also much easier to focus on the baseball side of things rather than trying to juggle school and baseball. I give a lot of credit to student athletes because that takes a tremendous amount of dedication and work, and I really tip my hat to them. For me though, pro ball is right where I want to be.

Can you talk a little bit about how it was decided that you would convert to catching?: Well, I had caught a little bit in high school, and then after I was drafted, the Blue Jays did a draft and follow. They would come and watch me play during the summer and intrigued the idea of catching, and that's where I believe the whole catching thing started.

My first instructional league in 2010, I caught last two weeks of our five week program and that was my first introduction to catching in pro ball. My second year and first full year, I caught in spring training then just played third and first throughout extended and the Gulf Coast League and again at instructs I caught the last week.

The real transition started in 2012. In spring training, all I did was catch, and the same throughout extended spring training and into the beginning of the Gulf Coast League and my first couple weeks in Bluefield in the Appalachian League. I ended up playing a lot of first base in Bluefield because our first basemen, Art Charles, got moved up to Vancouver. I then would still catch, but only once, and at the most twice, a week.

I again caught all instructional league, and went down to our facility in the Dominican to get an extra three weeks of work.  I still enjoy playing infield and that’s where I've played my whole life, so the transition was tough, but that’s where the Blue Jays and my minor league field coordinator Doug Davis believe I will excel, and they know much more about this game than I do, so I'm going to work my tail off and try and become the best catcher that I can be. I have a lot of respect for catchers now just because I know how much work it takes to be good at it. I'm very impressed with catchers who not only catch well, but can hit also.

What was the most difficult part about the life of a professional player to get used to besides the travel?: I think the most difficult part about playing minor league baseball is actually two things; one being away from home, and two learning how to fail.

The first one is kind of self explanatory. For a kid from a small farming town (Rogersville, MO), who loves being around his family, being gone for seven months in a completely new environment was a little bit of a transition.

The second one I think is the most vital and the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my short professional career. Most high school draft kids that come into pro ball were standouts at their various programs, but as you come into pro ball everyone is on more of a level playing field. Everyone is good. I am speaking generally. You have your standouts; the Bryce Harpers and Mike Trouts of the world, and those guys are unbelievably gifted. For a lot of guys though, they come in and have never failed and don't know what that is like to fail, so it is very difficult for them to get out of that along with the pressure of people who can look up your stats, writers write about you, critics, fans, and so forth. So for me, I had a terrible start to my first full season but battled out of it, and looking back, failure was such a gift for me that year because I know what it's like and how to handle it.

What does it take for a prospect to stand out in an organization full of young players?: For me this question is summed up by one guy, Kevin Pillar. I think he is an inspiration to a lot of players including myself. You look at the guy and he was a 32nd rounder senior sign out of a D-II college in California.  I think he is going to be a great big leaguer in the very near future. He won the Appy League batting title his first year and pretty much hasn't stopped hitting since.  He led the Blue Jays’ minor league system in a lot of offensive categories, steals bases, is a great outfielder and most of all a great teammate.

Honestly though, I think hard work, production, numbers, and what kind of teammate you are all factors that help you stand out. In the end, the be-all category is about your numbers. You put numbers up, you’re going to stand out and get moved. You work hard; that gets noticed. What kind of teammate and clubhouse guy you are, I think that gets noticed as well.

What do you consider your best attribute as a player, and which one do you think you need to work on the most?: I consider my best attributes as a player to be hard work and my mental approach to the game. Hard work is the way I was raised, and I take pride in my job and trying to get better a little each day. The mental approach and just knowing situations in games, and like I said, learning to fail and compete each and every day.

I do feel like I have a huge focus on catching right now. Learning how to handle a pitching staff, calling pitches, controlling a game, getting better in all facets defensively, etc... I think you’re always learning and trying to get better though in all areas of your game. When you think you have it all figured out, I think that would be a scary place to be.

You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

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