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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Former Brewers pitcher Seth McClung as a senior at Greenbrier East High School. More than 30 pro scouts were in attendance at this game.

In Sports Commentary

McClung as a Devil Ray in 2006, the year before he was traded to Milwaukee.

I was wrong


I was wrong back in 2007. It was my first season with the Brewers and my last season with the Devil Rays, and I was wrong.

I started the year with a misunderstanding. I thought I was out of options and I had valued myself so high that I came in to camp trying to work on things rather than shore up the closer's role that had basically been handed to me.

I intended to work on a change up and hitting my spots, and as a result, I had a very poor spring training. But I thought it really didn't matter; the Devil Rays wouldn't put a kid like me on waivers. In my mind I knew I was going to make the club.

But the team had found a loophole and placed me in AAA for basically the whole season until I was traded to the Brewers and called up to the big leagues.

I guess that's why it's taken me so long to come out and say the obvious: I was wrong. I didn't drink the cool aid Joe Madden and company where selling.

It all started in 1999 when I was drafted. The Devil Rays were the only team that I knew wouldn't draft me. They had the first pick in the second round, and I knew based on what scouts were telling me that I would go before then. To tell you the absolute truth, I thought I was going to the Brewers in the spot they took Ben Sheets. The Brewers' scouts where over at my house more than any other team, so when they took Ben I said, "Good pick for them."

The Pirates called in the third and offered me a $150,000 signing bonus over the phone. I said no. The Marlins called in the fourth and offered me $400,000 over the phone I asked for $600,000.

Then hours went by. I thought I had went undrafted. It was a personal disaster; I thought that, at 18 years old, I had messed up my opportunity to play pro baseball. Finally, at about 7:30 p.m., six hours after the draft had started, I received a phone call. I was drafted by the Devil Rays in the fifth round. I was relived but upset they waited so long to call to tell me.

This was the beginning of the chip on my shoulder.

I fought my way quickly through the minor leagues but I did everything wrong, at least twice. I was from a small town in West Virginia that did absolutely nothing to prepare me for any of baseball's unwritten -- and written -- rules. I didn't fit into the clubhouse, and I didn't trust anyone in the organization. I had a very "me against the world attitude," and I was going to win at all cost.

Finally, I got to the big leagues and I was surrounded by a bunch of guys who were leftover parts from other teams, or guys finishing up their career, or 22-year-olds like myself. It was a bunch of guys who had to fight for each and every inning pitched in the big leagues, and every at bat. There was no trust or team building. Everyone was interested in only themselves and where they were going out that night.

After a few years, a change in ownership and a new manager came to Tampa. The Rays went out and brought in Joe Maddon, a guy who had been with the Angels for forever as a bench coach. Joe, a wine enthusiast with funky little glasses, was a hit with the media. His presence was different. He had a very new-school approach to things. A lot of "numbers this" and "numbers that." I was hesitant. After all, the guys wanted Bill Evers, the very successful AAA manager, to take over. We had all loved the guy and thought he would lead us the way we were supposed to lead.

Time went on, and we kept losing. The Devil Rays lost close to 100 games that in 2006. 2007 came and I got ready for another season of baseball, but in St. Petersburg, things were changing.

I should have seen it coming, but being immature, I didn't. I had about five different pitching coaches by this time in my career, and I had five different ways to pitch taught in my head.

I had enough. I was going to do what I wanted to do. And I did. I was voted off the island and sent to purgatory.

I endured one of the hardest years in my life in 2007. From issues with personal relationships to multiple deaths of friends and family -- all the while pitching with an ERA under 2 in the International league. Guys were getting called up left and right -- but not me. The Devil Rays had the worst bullpen in the last 55 years in 2007 and sad to say, I was never a part of it. I battled depression and some of my teammates, along with the other personal issues, but I was well enough to be traded to Milwaukee at the deadline of that season.

I was reborn, and the rest you know. I loved my time in Milwaukee. It was a great run.

But I was wrong. I never thought Tampa Bay would turn it around. I didn't buy into their new way of doing things. I never thought the number-crunching, funky glasses-wearing guy would turn a team that played in an area that looked like a big top with a team and organization that looked more like a circus -- into this power house that it is today.

Well done Rays, Joe and company. You got the most out of the least, and you deserve every success.

Speaking of managers: Craig Counsell's name has been brought up a lot lately. I feel he would make a great manager one day. Excellent leader in the clubhouse. He has held leadership roles as a member of the union. And has won two World Championships. I don't know if any team would take a chance on him this quickly but he needs to be on a big league bench in some capacity some place. Craig is a winner and one day I think he will lead a team to a title as a manager.

Talkbacks

WVcoache | Feb. 20, 2011 at 8:46 a.m. (report)

Seth I want to thank you for the help you gave me with coaching and allowing me to work your camp. I really appreciate what you have done for the kids in WV. Good luck in Texas and I think the things you said about Craig Counsil also apply to you.

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yorobert | Oct. 20, 2010 at 1:25 p.m. (report)

nice column, seth. you definitely have a future in this, and as an avid fan it makes me feel like i know a bit about the man beneath the uniform. best wishes in baseball and with your writing.

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astuber | Oct. 20, 2010 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

Neyer linked this article! You have officially made it big time as a writer. I'm sure Sports Illustrated will be calling if they have not already. Keep up the good work.

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RaysRenegade | Oct. 20, 2010 at 12:15 a.m. (report)

Seth, I have known you since the days of the "Orange Tag", and we have spoken many times, but I really wish I had known this was going on with you. I agree when the Rays first brought in the quirky Professor with his designer glasses, even the fans were puzzled and confused on this new stage of logic in the clubhouse and on the field. Really wish I had known and could have talked you back onto the Rays Bullpen bench because you always seemed happy here in St. Petersburg. But you know have a great life, a special little one to watch scoot around the grass and friends in Tampa Bay who only wish "Big Red" the best inlife, and in baseball. Hope Spring 2011 we can see a invigorated and renewed SEth take the mound and not look back.

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sandstorm | Oct. 15, 2010 at 8:42 a.m. (report)

i thought this was gonna be a column on admitting you were wrong to like Linkin Park. kidding aside, great article! seriously. and i've got a friend who's been beating the "Counsell for manager" drum, and i thought he was crazy, then you come along, make a good case for Counsell and i gotta apologize to him. thanks a lot. i was wrong. good luck Seth.

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