We are extremely excited to share 009 : The Player Experience with Seth Ballew. Seth is forthright in sharing his experiences from his college and professional baseball career. Although Seth was undersized for a collegiate and professional starting LHP, he proved his worth and had many dominate seasons. Seth shares with us his recruiting process, his training, and his typical day to day as a division 1 baseball player, and as a Los Angeles Angels LHP. Welcome Seth!
Tell us about yourself, your background, and what you currently do.
My name is Seth Ballew, I grew up in Sugar Land, TX and went to high school at Fort Bend Travis. I played baseball and football in high school but baseball was my first love so I decided to pursue that. I played at Blinn Juco, Sam Houston State University, and for the Los Angeles Angels. I am currently an analyst for a bank in Houston, Tx.
What did you play, and what was that experience like?
I am a left-handed pitcher, recently retired from professional baseball. I had great experiences everywhere I played. The professional baseball experience was a neat one because obviously growing up playing baseball your dream is to make it to professional baseball one day. I’m just super thankful I was able to experience that and fulfill my lifelong dream.
Where have you played, what were those experiences like?
I was an undersized left-handed pitcher that topped out in the mid 80’s so I went to Blinn Junior College out of high school. If not for juco, I might not have become the player I ended up becoming. I recommend juco to anybody who isn’t a top recruit to a D1 college. We went to the junior college world series my first year at Blinn and that was one of the coolest experiences ever. Fast forward to my sophomore year, I tore my UCL in my 4th start of the season (late February). I ended up not having TJ until that August due to a rare tear that could not be picked up on an MRI (said the doctor). I had committed to Sam Houston State in the Fall my sophomore year at Blinn, and luckily for me they still honored that scholarship coming in with a torn UCL. Since I missed majority of my sophomore season at Blinn (2015) I qualified to receive my medical hardship to get that year back, also since my surgery was so late in 2015, I missed what was supposed to be my “junior” year at SHSU in 2016 and received a redshirt for that season. So to sum all of that up, I missed 2 whole years of baseball between 2015-2017. We ended up defeating #5 national seed Texas Tech in their regional in 2017 to advance to the first super regional in SHSU & Southland conference history. After my playing career was over at SHSU, I signed an UDFA professional contract with the Los Angeles Angels and played this past season in 2019. After much thought and consideration of my future, I decided to recently retire from baseball and pursue life outside of baseball.
Tell us what a typical day in the life looks like during the season?
College and professional baseball are two polar opposites schedule wise. In season during college, we would have weights at 6 am on Monday’s, then afternoon weights Wednesday’s and Friday’s depending on travel schedule/ game time. Mondays were “off” practice wise but since I was a starter who loved to be on a routine, these were never off days for me. Tuesday & Friday-Sunday were gamedays. Wednesday & Thursday were our practice days which were typically 1-5. In professional baseball, every single day was gameday. You would get to the field around noon-1, have meetings/practice/workouts from 1 until 3:30-4, then eat and head out for the game around 5:30-6. Games were 7-10 everyday. College and professional baseball were two totally different types of grinds, which I found funny. College was structured and uptight whereas professional baseball was more relaxed and you could get away with stuff.
What is the best thing about playing baseball for the Angels?
The best thing about playing for the Angels was how data driven their decisions were. Everything you do is broken down and shown to you through an analytical perspective. We would go over things such as power output in the gym, spin rate/vertical break/pitch usage %, and even mental goals with a sports psychologist. In college, you do not have access to any of that so that was the best thing for me playing professionally having goals and being shown how to achieve them.
Over your career, who are some teammates you really enjoyed playing with?
At Blinn, my roommate Jose Reyes was somebody I really enjoyed playing with. I loved seeing his natural ability at SS and how he smooth he was at the position, those guys are rare. At Sam Houston, I played and also roomed with a RHP, Heath Donica. What made me enjoy him so much was our deep talks about the game and how to get hitters out and the mindset needed to be successful and keep playing past college. His tenacity and competitiveness really motivated me to continue to push myself and become a better player.
Who or what has inspired you to keep working hard and playing?
What inspired me to pursue a professional career after college was ultimately my dreams that I wanted to make it that far. I also felt like I was always the underdog and had a chip on my shoulder to make it and prove to people who didn’t think an undersized lefty who spent 6 years in college could make it to professional baseball. It’s funny you see how even some of your college coaches don’t believe in you, and you wonder what they’re even doing in the position as a college coach.
Any Classic or funny stories you’d like to share about your player experience?
Theres too many to name, but there was one I will never forget. When we made the JUCO World Series at Blinn, we tried to shove our whole team in an elevator and got it stuck. We had about 20 guys packed into a tiny elevator and you felt it try and go up and then a big thud. After about 30 minutes of being packed in we heard the fire department coming through the roof and by that time, all of the mirrors in the elevator had fogged up. Long story short, as we were getting helped out, our coach was waiting for us on the outside and absolutely ripped into us.
How can you describe the recruiting process for college?
I think the recruiting process is different for each player but for me, I was able to go through it twice: once out of high school and again out of juco. Like I said I was an undersized lefty who would top out mid-80’s in high school so I had a few D1’s express interests but my only legit offers were from jucos. If anybody is torn between going juco or D1 and you aren’t a certified freshman that will make an immediate impact or didn’t receive a good offer from a D1 out of high school, I highly recommend juco it was the best decision I made for my baseball career. During the recruiting process I was looking for coaches who placed emphasis on development and winning. I chose Blinn because it is one of the more well known names in the juco realm and had a great track record of developing their players and getting them to D1 schools. I ultimately landed on Sam Houston after Blinn because they offered the three things that I wanted: ensure I get my degree, develop me as a player to have a shot at professional baseball, and win championships. I achieved all of those there and I couldn’t have been happier with the college decisions I made.
What about the draft process?
The draft process is extremely different from the college recruiting process. Scouts send you prospective questionnaires just to learn more about you and see if you would be a good fit for their organization. You know its legit once they actually reach out to you and start coming to games and having meetings with you. For college, you look for the best fit for you, but for professional baseball you just want somebody to give you a chance. I had received interest my last 2 years at Sam Houston and had hopes I would get drafted but nothing ever came of it. Actually the only reason I got an UDFA offer from the Angels was because I called my pitching coach from SHSU and asked him to call the Angels area scout and let me come out to their pre-draft workout and throw for them. I threw well and ended up getting a call 2 weeks after the draft with a contract offer. The draft is an exciting time for anybody who thinks they have a chance, but if your name isn’t called don’t give up hope.
What tools or resources do you lean on to further your success?
I knew that in order to be successful, I had to turn to professionals and guys who knew how to develop and advance your game. My favorite follows in the baseball world are Driveline, Tread Athletics, DST in Houston, and my pitching coach David Evans. These 4 resources without a doubt helped me excel my game over the years and gave me the best chance to play professional baseball.
What is a piece of advice you’d want to pass on to young players coming through the ranks?
You cannot become complacent or settle. Set your goals and set them high, but also give yourself tiny little checkpoints along the way. Once you hit a milestone, don’t settle and think you’ve made it and that will be good enough because in baseball somebody is always coming for your spot. Have the mindset you will become the best in the world someday and work everyday towards that. Ultimately, you should always remain humble. Baseball is a very humbling sport and it really is a game of failure so take both success and failure with a grain of salt and continue to keep working to get better and it will pay off in the end.