HAMMOND, La. – Jacob Seward’s teammates call him Superman.
An ability to make jaw-dropping plays in center field is exactly the reason why.
“He’s not afraid to leave his feet,” Southeastern head coach Matt Riser said. “He never gives up on any ball that’s in the air.”
Center fielders are expected to contribute the most work in the outfield, since they cover a larger territory than others. The position requires an effortless mixture of style and energy, but a player risks going unnoticed due to struggles at the plate.
“Unnoticed” is one word that certainly does not apply to Seward. In 2015, he was named the Southland Conference Player of the Year, batting .350 with a team-leading 76 hits, 47 runs scored, .442 on-base percentage, and 19 stolen bases. The next season, he earned the distinction of the second-toughest player in the nation to strike out. But what truly sets Seward apart is his drive to reach first base.
“That’s one of my strengths, getting on base and causing havoc,” Seward said. “It’s important for me to get on base, so I can put pressure on the [opposing] pitchers and help my team score.”
Seward’s playing style evokes memories of another notable center fielder: 2017 Southeastern Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Cass Hargis, who graduated in 2011. Revered by the baseball faithful as the “Hit King,” Hargis left Southeastern as the all-time leader in hits, at-bats, runs scored, and triples, as well as two additional categories.
Seward, a Brother Martin High School alum, isn’t far behind Hargis in the record books, either. His 793 career at-bats and 167 career runs scored each rank third among Southeastern all-timers, and his 229 hits rank fourth.
However, Seward acknowledges that achieving recognition is not his true objective.
“It’s definitely an honor, but as far as personal goals, I don’t really get caught up in it,” Seward said. “I try to focus on team goals as far as winning games and trying to win championships with my teammates.”
Seward’s team-first attitude punctuates every aspect of his game, even when he doesn’t have great luck offensively. A perennial leadoff batter in previous seasons, Seward understands the origin of his recent demotion to the two-hole in Matt Riser’s lineup.
“I wasn’t hitting well enough to be in the leadoff spot and other guys were,” Seward admitted. “So I feel like wherever I’m at in the lineup, I’ll do my job there.”
In 44 at-bats since being moved, Seward has only struck out twice and he has been walked five times.
“The biggest thing is his strike zone discipline,” said Riser. “He’s always been extremely good with two strikes. That’s his game.”
There is something understated about the 5-foot-9, 182-pound senior that seems to define the other veteran members of the squad.
“[It’s] that hardnosed mentality he has,” said former Lions first baseman Jameson Fisher, a three-year teammate of Seward. “When you talk to him, he doesn’t seem like that but when you watch him play, he just gets after it.”
Seward is one of the most dynamic personalities in the dugout. He never ceases to motivate his teammates at every turn, rarely showing emotion when things don’t go his way.
Rather, his passion for the game manifests itself in a quiet confidence that ignores the outcome on the scoreboard.
“I try to stay with the same approach I’ve always stuck with my whole life,” Seward said. “I just trust my ability and have faith in my skillset.”
Away from the baseball diamond, Seward approaches life with a cheerful demeanor. Fisher emphasized his sarcastic sense of humor and witty character, saying that he never brought his problems to the field.
“I felt like I could always joke around with him,” Fisher said. “Jacob seemed like he was always the guy that you couldn’t tell if he was having a bad day or not.”
Another prominent trait about Seward is his consistency, which his teammates consider a valuable asset both on and off the field.
For Seward’s roommate, third baseman Taylor Schwaner, this means knowing that he can depend on him for anything.
“He always has my back, and vice versa,” said Schwaner. “He’d do anything for you. That guy’s my best friend.”
Defensively, that loyalty translates into a relentless pursuit of the seemingly uncatchable baseball.
“Balls that you think are no shot to be caught, he’ll run down,” Riser said. “That’s an instinct that he works on in pregame practice, but also part is the ability and the talent that’s God-given.”