NEW MARKET – Jonah Seagears hadn’t batted in the leadoff spot in a long time, but this season for the New Market Rebels it’s been the perfect spot for him.
Seagears said that he’s felt comfortable in the position and has enjoyed it so far in the Valley Baseball League season.
“When I was playing baseball at a smaller age I played lead off because I was a fast guy,” Seagears said. “But then as I grew up, got into high school, I played more 3-hole – basically my whole high school career. So coming back into the leadoff spot has actually been a lot of fun. Being able to kind of be that spark plug, that energy plug for the team to get things going. Being able to steal a couple bases early in games. I really think that can spark our team, give our team a lot of energy. So it’s been fun to get back to the leadoff position.”
Seagears has the right kind of game to play leadoff. He is batting .282 (22-for-78) and he has 15 stolen bases and has drawn 18 walks. Seagears has also scored 17 runs and has two homers and nine RBIs.
New Market head coach Matt Schaeffer said Seagears is exactly what they look for in a lead-off guy.
“Different coaches do it different ways but we like to have him up there because he does have the ability to steal bases,” Schaeffer said. “He also has good at-bats. He’s not an eager swinger. He’s not going to swing at free will. He has an approach. He sticks to his approach. It’s a balanced approach.”
Seagears is a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech but he’s not playing the same position he did when he first committed to the Hokies.
Most of his career, Seagears played in the middle infield and that’s where Virginia Tech first wanted him to play. Seagears, who wasn’t getting a lot of playing time early on in his freshman season, switched to center field this past spring and it has worked out well for him.
“We needed more help in the outfield,” Seagears said. “We sat down; we had a conversation. They said: ‘we like your speed, we like your athleticism. We think you can translate to center field,’ and I was all for it. The more opportunities to play the better. So that’s where I had my best shot to play so I accepted that right away. Being able to make diving catches, just being able to fully use my speed, my athleticism is pretty cool.”
Seagears is playing center field for the Rebels and said he’s getting more and more comfortable there. For the Hokies, Seagears played in 32 games, including 13 starts. He batted .235 (12-for-51) with three doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored.
He said that the Virginia Tech coaching staff urged most of their players to play in a summer league. Seagears said he was given several options but he wanted to play in the VBL because it was close to home. Seagears is from Gainesville and is a 2018 graduate of Battlefield High School.
“(Virginia Tech head) Coach (John Szefc) put me in contact with (Schaeffer),” Seagears said. “We talked on the phone a couple times. I really liked his ideas of what we wanted to do this summer: staying healthy, getting better and of course to win. Everybody wants to win, which is awesome. So I knew that this was going to be a really fun place to play at. Being able to play with different dudes from Florida and all over the country, meet different guys. And to really be close to home is awesome. My parents get to see me play a lot and the experience so far has been great.”
Seagears said he came to Virginia Tech with a preferred walk-on spot and had to earn a spot on the spring roster, which he was able to do. He said his freshman season with the Hokies went better than he expected.
“I wasn’t expecting a whole lot of playing time,” Seagears said. “I was seen as kind of a role guy where I can come in and I could run bases because I’ve always been one of the faster guys. So my speed translates to the outfield pretty well. I could play center field in late game situations. But toward the end of the year, we had guys going down — a couple injuries here and there. So I had more opportunities at the plate, started to DH, pinch-hit more toward the end of the season. And the better you do at those opportunities, the more playing time you get. So toward the end of the season, I was starting games, ended up playing full series, which is awesome.”
He said he got off to a slow start for the Rebels but has been feeling better at the plate as the season has went on. On Monday, Seagears was named the USA Signs Valley Baseball League Player of the Week. Last week Seagers hit .474 in five games with three runs scored, two doubles, two RBIs and three stolen bases.
Seagears said he didn’t feel any different at the plate – it was just one of those weeks where everything clicked for him.
Seagears will play in the VBL All-Star game on Sunday. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Coverage will begin at 7 p.m. with a pregame show.
One of Seagears strong suits is his ability to steal bases and he said it’s always been an important part of his game.
“Our coach at Tech talks a lot about being able to steal bases starts when you’re in the dugout,” Seagears said. “Being able to pick up on tendencies of the pitcher anywhere from how many looks he’s giving guys at first or second base to his holds. So once I’m able to pick up kind of what the pitcher’s tendencies are, that makes stealing bases that much easier. Because the thing is I feel like if I can get the perfect jump on the pitcher’s arm, then I should be able to be safe nine out of 10 times.”
The Hokies came up just short of qualifying for the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament last year and Seagears said he thinks they will do well next season.
“Going into my sophomore season I would love to start,” Seagears said. “Being able to start in center field for an ACC school is big time. I believe I can do it. I believe that we should have a great team this next coming year and win a lot of games. We were just shy of making the ACC tournament this year. So honestly, at the top of my list is just being able to help the team in any way possible to win. College baseball is a lot of fun. It’s even more fun if you’re going deep in the playoffs, going to regionals, super regionals.”
The Rebels are 12-16 and tied for third place in the North Division. Seagears said despite their current record he believes the team can finish the season strong much like last year. Last year the Rebels won 13 straight games to end the season and won the VBL Championship.
“I feel like we haven’t really reached our potential quite yet,” Seagears said. “We’ve shown spurts of where we’ve played well. When our pitching has done the job, when our hitting has produced. We haven’t really put it together quite yet. But we’re only about halfway through the season. We’ve got a lot of games left, a lot of (at-bats) left. Last year, New Market went on a 13-game winning streak and it bursted them through the playoffs and ultimately to the championship. So I think we can still do it. I think we have the talent for sure. I think we have the chemistry. It’s just a matter of getting a couple hits here and a couple of hits there and those will produce wins.”