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Corey Seager and the Art of Minimalism

The swing is delightful, carving a lyrical plane through the strike zone with minimal effort and utmost grace. The poise at shortstop is impressive, inspiring confidence and imploring fans to nod in acknowledgement. The overall manner is understated, as a budding star acts gracefully with the baseball world in his hands.

Corey Seager really is that good. At the age of 21, the Dodgers phenom is living up to his acclaim, so vociferous in this era of prospect hype. Through the first seven games this year, Seager has 10 hits and 4 RBI from 32 plate appearances, good for a .333 average. That follows his Major League cameo last season, during which he slashed .337/.425/.561 in 27 games. Of course, this is a ridiculously small sample size, from which we cannot draw a great deal, but his attitude on the field fuels even greater optimism about the future, which looks so bright in Los Angeles.

The little things excite me about Seager. It’s the way he jogs casually off the field after swooshing a throw across the diamond for an out. Head up, but humility sparkling in his eyes. It’s the way he calmly approaches each plate appearance like a knowing veteran. Confident, but aware of baseball’s difficulty. It’s the way he doesn’t revel in self-congratulation, but still injects energy and intrigue into any game. Smile, but don’t gloat.

Diehard fans appreciate those little gestures, those little mannerisms of a star who understands his talent yet also appreciates his place in the hierarchy of baseball. Despite only playing thirty-four big league games, Seager has already mastered the art of emotional minimalism without stifling his own youthful joy de vivre. In short, he gets it, and witnessing his career unfold will be a privilege we should all enjoy.

When watching a game, you can see thoughts whirring in his head, like all the great ones, and he has that ineffable ability to project outward serenity even in moments of huge pressure. Ice water seems to trickle in his veins, while there is a hint of boyish shyness that makes him an ideal baseball hero. Corey Seager is one of the most precious assets in the modern game, so geared towards long-term planning, but his demeanour wouldn’t suggest so. He just keeps on hitting and throwing, smiling and running, as destiny takes its course.

In many respects, Seager is redolent of the great Derek Jeter. The position. The single-digit jersey number. The movie star looks and preternatural talent. The sprawling metropolis as home. Both guys made the Major Leagues at 21. Both were drafted in the first round by powerhouse teams that demand glory. Both are defined by a humble elegance more powerful than words. Naturally, it’s unfair on both parties to make more than a tentative comparison, especially since only five men in the game’s history have more base hits than Jeter, but Seager definitely has all the hallmarks to imitate the inimitable man.

Obviously, this is baseball, a game of crude unpredictability with a tendency to break hearts. We’ve seen enough prospects flame out to warrant significant caution. Also, Seager still has plenty to work on, as his high strikeout tally and momentary fielding lapses during the 2015 postseason attest. Yet, those negatives shouldn’t necessarily cloud our judgement or ruin our enjoyment of a phenomenally talented player. The fact that he was even playing in October last year, having usurped Jimmy Rollins to become the youngest position player in Dodgers playoff history, is a marvel in itself. Likewise, only four players have ever hit third in a postseason lineup before their 22nd birthday: Seager, Carlos Correa, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

The kid is already in rarefied air.

Just last week, he became the Dodgers’ youngest Opening Day shortstop since Gene Mauch in 1944, and the second youngest dating back to 1913. No younger Dodger has started at any position on Opening Day since Adrian Beltre in 2000. This is not a franchise mired in mediocrity. This is the Dodgers, one of the most historic sports teams in the world. Seager is not only blazing a trail and readjusting the record books right from the beginning of his career; he’s doing it all for a juggernaut team that evokes immense scrutiny. The world is watching, and Corey just keeps right on, sticking to his own style, his own morals, his own sense of gravity. That deserves widespread admiration.

Today, the Dodgers will play their home opener at Chavez Ravine. Fifty-six thousand people will cram into Dodger Stadium, now the most capacious ballpark in all of baseball. Millions will tune in around the world, eager to scrutinise one of the most expensive sports teams ever assembled. Some players may shrink in the spotlight, freeze in the fanfare. But Corey Seager will maintain the even keel beyond his years. Never too low, never too high, but always showing the skills and temperament to match the face, charisma and aura of a baseball superstar.

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