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Hand-Me-Down Nerve

Canyon's Chris Seddon Uses Uncommon Poise to Excel as Pitcher, Much the Same Way His Father Performed Under Pressure as U.S. Customs Undercover Agent

August 09, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CANYON COUNTRY — The bases might be loaded as his team clings precariously to a one-run lead, but Chris Seddon rarely gets flustered.

He'll pick up the rosin bag, walk around the mound and remain remarkably calm, perhaps the result of perform-under-pressure genetics inherited from his father, a former undercover agent for the U.S. Customs Service.

Baseball is a game, the younger Seddon realizes, and the pressure he faces as a pitcher at Canyon High pales in comparison to the work from which his father, Jon, is retired.

It wasn't uncommon for Jon to embark on month-long, classified-information missions under an alias.

No wonder that two-out rallies by opponents don't bother the nerves-of-titanium Seddon.

"I guess I get it from my dad," he said. "If he can stay calm in some of the situations he's been in, why can't I stay calm [in baseball]? When you come down to it, it's just a game."

It's a game in which Seddon is starting to attract attention. He started strong in the Area Code Games, an annual event showcasing players for professional scouts and college coaches at Blair Field in Long Beach.

In two scoreless innings Monday against an all-star team of players from across the nation, Seddon allowed two hits, struck out four and did not walk a batter.

In recent weeks, he has condensed his footwork and curbed a habit of jerking his head away from the plate during his deliver. The motion sometimes caused him to stumble off the mound like former Major League reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.

Seddon has also improved his diet, scrapping fast food in favor of meals rich in complex carbohydrates. Pasta and cereal, not burgers and fries, are his new staples. The 6-foot-2 left-hander, who will be a senior, has added 10 pounds this summer and weighs 165.

"From a scouting perspective, it's pretty easy to see him with another 15-20 pounds," said Craig Wallenbrock, manager of Seddon's Area Code team. "His fastball's already got life. With more strength, I could see him picking up another three or four [mph on his fastball]."

Seddon consistently throws between 87 and 90 mph. He's not in the same company as former Palmdale pitcher Matt Harrington, who has been clocked at 97 mph and was selected with the seventh pick by the Colorado Rockies in the amateur draft in June.

But Seddon has room to improve.

"Harrington was very polished," Wallenbrock said. "He showed you what you wanted to see. You didn't need to use any imagination. Seddon's more of a projection guy. I like his future."

His past is baseball-saturated.

When he was 5, he would sleep in his T-ball uniform for fear he might oversleep and be late for a morning game.

"It took two years to get him out of that habit," said his father.

Seddon was originally an outfielder but was converted to pitcher in junior high. He played on the freshman team at Canyon before being promoted to varsity as a sophomore, where he was 6-2 with a 3.16 earned-run average.

Last season, Seddon was 6-3 with a 2.72 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings.

So far this week, he has performed well in front of a phalanx of radar guns.

"Honestly, I don't even see them," he said. "After I pitch, I put my head down, look at the dirt and talk to myself. Then I step on the rubber and look right at the catcher."

As if nothing could faze him. Like father, like son.

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