The fifth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in the 2009 Draft, Seth Schwindenhammer began his third season with the team’s New York-Penn League affiliate in Lowell last month. He has played in 137 games over his first four professional seasons, hitting .192/.262/.326 with 12 homeruns, 56 RBI, 43 walks and 217 strikeouts in 473 at-bats/522 plate appearances.
Schwindenhammer’s stat line fascinates me, so I caught up with the soft-spoke right-fielder before last night’s game against the Staten Island Yankees. We talked about Moniker Madness, what he has learned from his struggles, and how he has turned his extended time in Lowell into a positive by becoming a team leader.
First thing today I wanted to ask you about was Moniker Madness. That started up again last week. Are you upset that past winners are ineligible?
No. I mean, it was fun to win it last year. It was fun the past couple years, actually, just being in it, having all the fans vote your you and everything, and family back home. But it’s good to get another group of guys in there and give someone else a chance to have a cool name for the year.
You don’t get to step up and defend your title, though.
I know it, I know it. But I think we’ve got a guy on the team that’s in it, Jadd Schmeltzer.
You actually hit my next question. I was gonna ask who has the better name. Is it Jadd Schmeltzer or Seth Schwindenhammer?
Seth Schwindenhammer for sure.
Definitely? That’s the best?
I mean, come on, it’s fifteen letters long.
You’re doing this interview for me here, because my next question was, how many times have you seen or heard, “If you make the major leagues, you’re gonna have the longest name…”?
All the time. I always have people come up to me and ask me how long my name is, and I always hear when we go to opposing places, “How do they fit it on the jersey?” Stuff like that. But yeah, I’ve heard it a bunch, so hopefully I can get to the big leagues and make history there with it.
This season has been a little bit of a struggle. What do you learn from a stretch like this, where things aren’t going well?
I just try and keep my head held high. I had a pretty good season last year. Strikeouts were up and you don’t really want that, but last year I felt was like my biggest challenge, with the strikeouts. This year I haven’t gotten as much playing time as I thought I would be getting, but I come out here and put my work in for it. My BP is good. Sooner or later hopefully I can put a few games together and play more than one day, then sit four, then play again. Once I get in there, though, I feel like I’d get in a groove and start getting back into it.
Were you surprised when you didn’t start the year up in Greenville?
I was a little surprised when the rosters came out and I wasn’t on it, but I didn’t let it affect me. I went out and I had a good extended [spring training], felt great through extended, and just tried to bring what I did in extended here. And then I’d start and my playing time was cut short. It’s not the easiest to play a game and then sit three or four and then come out and try to perform. But I gotta do the best I can when my time comes.
This is your fourth season. How has your approach at the plate changed in that time since you debuted until now?
My approach from my first year to now – I would say my first year, coming out of high school, hitting a bunch of homeruns, I was always, “I gotta hit a homerun, I gotta hit a homerun.” But now I just try to put the bat on the ball, hit it where it’s pitched, and try to get runners in wherever I can.
You’re not one of the older guys here, which surprised me when I looked at it because you’re actually one of the younger guys, but I think you’re the longest-tenured. As sort of a veteran here, do you try to take more of a leadership role in the clubhouse and maybe show the guys that are coming in new the ropes if they need some help
Yeah, we’ve got a few guys here, couple of the older guys and myself, when our losing streak was going on we tried to keep the team up. We’ve had team meetings, just the players. I always tell them, “We’ve got a great squad.” This is probably the greatest team I’ve played on since I’ve been here. We’ve got a good team chemistry. We’ve got a lot of talent. It’s just [that] we come up in the late innings and maybe make a couple errors or the pitchers give up a couple runs, and then after they give up a couple runs we feel, “Game’s over already. We can’t come back.”
But we just try to reiterate that at the beginning of the season we were 4-1, first five games, and that’s what we want to get back to. We want to get back to that and adding runs whenever we can.
So is that something you bring, is that you’re a guy who’s seen the highs and the lows and can kind of tell the younger guys, or the new guys…
Yeah, like I said, we’ve got two or three or us who sit there and constantly tell them, “Hey now, let’s keep in it.” Even in the dugout when the seventh or eighth inning comes around, we just keep telling them, “Keep the heads up. Let’s chip away one at a time.”
I mentioned Greenville. What do you feel like you have to do to make that leap up to the next step?
Right now I don’t feel like there’s a big leap that I want to make. I want to perform while I’m here, I want to get my batting average back up, I want to start making solid contact more, and then if the time comes that’s great. But right now I’m worried about just getting my batting average up and getting some more playing time.
I read that you’d almost gone to Illinois. I don’t know if you had committed there?
Yeah, I had committed. I had signed with them.
What was it that ultimately made you sign with the Red Sox when they drafted you?
You know, I don’t know what made me sign. Illinois is a great school, great team, great coaching staff over there. I really wanted to go to Illinois, but I don’t know. The pro ball thing got in my mind. I just felt like they could transform me into something bigger versus college, where I’d be worried about school and baseball, where here I could just concentrate on baseball.
Do you ever look back at that and question the decision? Say, “What if?”
Not really. I’ve been here, and this is where most college guys come after two or three years of college, so I feel like I made the right choice.
Thanks to Lowell Spinners Director of Media Relations Jon Boswell for coordinating this interview.