A new diet and workout plan focused on flexibility rather than pure strength has third baseman Kyle Seager skinnier and more mobile.
PEORIA, Ariz. — Kyle Seager knew he put in the work this offseason.
He discarded everything he’d done in the past for a new plan from a new voice to make him feel better in 2019. It was unfamiliar, uncomfortable and, at times, unnerving. And yet, his discipline overcame the doubt. His new workouts, diet and routine had him feeling better than ever before.
But in that day-to-day process, he didn’t comprehend the pounds being shaved off. So when Seager arrived to the Mariners complex a few days ago, he was overwhelmed by comments on his trimmed-down appearance.
“You see it right away, just the eye test and how his body is kind of transformed,” manager Scott Servais said. “He has a different look about him. He’s thinner, more lean.”
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It wasn’t a long look at the mirror or a measurement on the scale that made him realize just how much his body had changed.
No, it was his uniform. It no longer fit properly.
As Seager warmed up and took ground balls on the first day of full-squad workouts, his jersey, which draped off him, kept coming untucked from a belt that had be cinched extra tight because he no longer could fill out his pants. He looked like a young kid wearing his dad’s uniform.
“Yeah, this isn’t going to work,” he said. “I guess I didn’t anticipate this part of it.”
After the workout, he immediately went to clubhouse manager Ryan Stiles to request new, properly fitting pairs of pants and jerseys.
Each year, there are dozens of stories about baseball players reporting to spring training in the best shape of their life. But for Seager, this was more than that.
“I didn’t go into the winter saying I want to lose ‘x’ amount of pounds,” Seager said. “I wanted to clean up my body, get rid of some of the extra inflammation, just weight I didn’t need. If I had cleaned off some of the fat and gained muscle and weight, that would have been fine, too. Doing all this stuff, I got rid of all the stuff I wanted to get rid of, I cleaned up the diet and ended up losing weight. But that wasn’t necessarily the goal.”
A major part of the goal was to avoid enduring another forgettable season like 2018, which was statistically the worst of his career.
He finished with a .221 batting average, a .273 on-base percentage and .400 slugging percentage, all career lows for a full season. His 36 doubles, 22 homers and 78 runs batted in, numbers which some players would love, were not acceptable to him. And he also played most of the season with seething pain in his left big toe due to an avulsion fracture that wouldn’t heal.
“I felt it mostly when I was standing,” he joked of the toe. “Other than that, it was all right. When I was sleeping at night, it felt great. Sitting in a chair? Awesome.
“We were playing for something really big, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to help. Unfortunately I didn’t help as much as I should have. That’s certainly a regret of mine.”
When the Mariners offense sputtered in late July and August and the team faded from the postseason race, he couldn’t help, hitting .200 with a .244 OBP, .344 slugging percentage with 11 doubles, five homers and 23 RBI in those two months.
“I know what doesn’t work now, so that was good for me,” Seager said. “I know the swings that didn’t work, so those are positives. But it also really opened my eyes and pointed out that I needed to make some adjustments and I needed to make some changes, physically.”
So he went to Jason Lindsay, the owner of TopTeam Performance in Charlotte, N.C. Lindsay’s company works extensively with golfers and even NASCAR pit crews but also has a program for baseball players.
When Seager first met Lindsay, he realized his old plan was antiquated in so many ways. Seager’s transformation was going to take a full commitment that included driving an hour each way to Huntersville, N.C., and less time hunting and fishing. It also included homework. To start, Lindsay gave Seager a detailed plan of stretches he had to do every morning and every night.
“My body was really, really inflexible in a lot of areas,” Seager said. “My back would always get tight on me. That was just something that throughout the season it would always do that. I thought of it as, ‘You play third base, you do about 150 squats a day basically over there, you swing a lot and you are going to get tight. It makes sense.’ But going to Jason, he pointed out a lot of other areas on my body that were tight that were causing the back to be an issue.”
Each morning at 6 a.m., he would wake up and do his required stretches before beginning his day. They became part of his daily routine.
“My body feels so much better,” he said.
Stretching was all Seager could do initially because he had to wait for his toe to heal.
“I found out I basically broke it because I wasn’t flexible enough,” he said. “It wasn’t a foul ball. Everything was so tight it literally just popped, basically. That was kind of eye-opening where you have that type of a deal. That’s a problem, right?”
When the toe healed, Seager went into full workouts.
“Going into it thinking that I’m not going to be getting under squat rack and seeing how much I can do and pushing as much as weight as I can and go from there,” he said. “What I found is when you use your body correctly and how it’s supposed to be intended to work and you are physically able to use it that way how much stronger you are. In a lot of our testing, I was stronger.”
The increased time in the gym didn’t take away from the work on his swing — something he will devote hours upon hours to, sometimes to his detriment.
“While I working out with Jason, there was a lot of swinging there,” Seager said. “He goes over how your body works, and the bio-mechanics of your body. He wasn’t necessarily like a baseball coach, but it would be me talking about the positions I want to get in, but wasn’t able to get into. He could kind of explain to me why I wasn’t able to and how I could get into those positions.
The average fan might not see the changes, but they feel noticeable for Seager.
“I changed a lot of it up,” he said. “I don’t know how different it maybe looks but it feels a lot different. From where your legs go, to your knees to go, to how your back rotates and how your hips are rotating, it feels quite a bit different directionally. That’s the big thing. When I was physically able to make the right moves, the direction goes to toward the pitchers mound and they way you want them to go.”
His manager can see it.
“I watched him swing the bat yesterday and it’s batting practice, but it looks a little different,” Servais said. “It’s more like what we saw out of Kyle earlier in his career. But you take all the experiences you’ve had and now hopefully get his body in better positions and moving better, he can get the results he’s looking for. Give him a lot of credit. He spent a lot of time this offseason reflecting on what he can do.”
And compared to a year ago?
“Whether it was not being able to due to being inflexible or trying to protect your toe or whatever it was, I was trying to get off my backside as much as I could and just spin,” Seager said. “I knew it wasn’t good. But I figured that maybe on that given day you might run into something. It was basically just trying to go out there and compete as well as I could. I think I’ve cleaned that up.”
Upon instruction, Seager also cleaned up his diet. Though it’s not the first time he’d heard such a request.
“I’ve always been a little bit routine-driven, and my wife has wanted me to eat healthier for years,” he said. “So it was everything she’d been telling me for years, but as soon as [Lindsay] said it, I bought in a little more.”
It was Seager’s wife, Julie, that helped the process in terms of meal planning, shopping and preparation.
“We were all eating it together,” he said. “We were doing this stuff together so it wasn’t like I was eating something completely separate. My breakfast might have been different, but we were still eating the same general stuff. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if she wasn’t on board with it and wanted to do it also.”
Like with any dietary change, the process had highs and lows.
“For sure, but once you get into the rhythm of it, you take the attitude of, this is what I’m going to do so I’m going to do it,” he said. “The first couple of days when it’s new it’s kind of exciting and you can do it easier,”hen you hit that stretch where the excitement has worn off and you have to grind a little bit. Then once you get through that phase it’s just what you do and you don’t really miss it.”
He’ll give himself a cheat meal of pizza or perhaps a dessert once a week but admittedly doesn’t like how he feels after ingesting it. He learned about food and took on a different mindset about it. In fact, he likes certain aspects of the diet.
“I love the breakfast,” he said. “It’s lot of eggs. It’s a lot of food. I’m eating a lot of food, but it’s good food and I’m cooking it a healthy way. It’s not that I’m eating something outrageously crazy. You are preparing it differently, you are eating it cleaner, but it’s still the same things. I put some spinach in there. I tried the kale, and it was supposed to be part of the diet, but I didn’t love that as much. I ended up liking spinach a lot.”
But this change isn’t an offseason one-off. It’s going to continue into the season.
“He’s given me homework,” Seager said. “He has me thinking about different things. Eating healthy, doing all this stuff, when you put food in your body, at what times and what you’re putting in your body. Pre-workout, post-workout, before the games, all these other things.”
And even if he doesn’t get the desired results he wants at the plate this season or returns to his 2016 level, he believes this is the proper process.
“This is something that, say, this year doesn’t go well or something like that, this isn’t something that will change,” he said. “I needed to clean up my body physically and the dietary stuff and everything, it’s not something I really need to go back to. It’s a process, but I feel much better.”