It was the summer of 2014 when Connor Seabold had just finished pitching a game for his travel ball team. After rummaging through his bag to find his phone, he found he was bombarded with over 100 text messages congratulating him for being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Two and a half years later after entering his junior season with Cal State Fullerton, Seabold looks to build upon his already impressive resume as he was ranked No. 51 on Baseball America’s list of 2017 top-100 MLB Draft prospects. The ranking is third-highest among Big West Conference players behind UC Santa Barbara’s Clay Fisher (No. 47) and UC Irvine’s Keston Hiura (No. 20).
“It’s nice but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything until I actually go out and do something,” Seabold said. “In a way, it adds a little bit of extra pressure but it’s nothing I feel like is really going to affect me.”
Up until college, Seabold was a two-way player. During his time at Newport Harbor High School, Seabold played some shortstop and outfield on the side.
After being drafted by the Orioles, Seabold opted to take his talents to Cal State Fullerton in hopes of polishing up his skills because he said he was not “as complete of a pitcher at that point.” Fullerton had been his dream school ever since the Titans won the College World Series back in 2004.
As a freshman, Seabold exhibited signs of greatness when he received the Sunday starter nod after Justin Garza suffered an injury. He ended up making the most of his opportunity, recording a 5-4 record with a solid 3.26 ERA. Seabold also racked up a total of 76 strikeouts, second most on the team.
Seabold went on to improve his play during his sophomore campaign where his status as a reliable starter was further cemented, improving in every statistical category. Seabold’s 7-6 record, 2.48 ERA and 96 strikeouts helped the Titans capture the Big West Conference title.
Though Seabold patterns his games after professionals like David Price and Garrett Richards, he said former teammate Thomas Eshelman played a large part in helping mold Seabold into the player he is today. Eshelman holds Fullerton’s all-time record for lowest ERA at 1.65 and strikeout-to-walk ratio at 17.8, totalling just 18 walks along with 321 strikeouts, ranking fifth for most strikeouts in school history.
During his time with Eshelman, Seabold got the chance to pick his brain, study him from the sidelines and take aspects from Eshelman’s game and add them to his.
“(Eshelman) was probably the best strike thrower in the program’s history, if not college baseball history,” Seabold said. “So I really try to emulate his pitching style. Just throw a lot of quality strikes or let the guys get themselves out.”
Head Coach Rick Vanderhook had high praise for his ace’s steady development as a player and his ability to thrive in high-pressure situations.
“Connor got seasoned in. He got pitch protected for a while because he had Eshelman and Garza. Then when Garza got hurt, he got thrown right into the fire and did not get burned, threw super good as we went through it,” Vanderhook said. “He’s taken possession of the pitching staff with John Gavin. They are the guys that are responsible for them, they’ve taken ownership of it.”
Heading into the 2017 season, the Titans are ranked top-25 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (No. 10), Perfect Game (No. 15) and D1Baseball (No.16) preseason polls. Seabold said the polls don’t mean much, but what they do is present the Titans with a challenge to go out and prove those recognitions were deserved.
“I think it’s good. It puts a target on our back which in turn makes us play better,” Seabold said. “You feel that pressure, but it’s a good pressure. It makes you want to meet those expectations and it makes you want to perform how everybody is saying that you should be performing.”