June 1, 2010

Marty, Monsters & My Miracle Mets

— The mention of Marty Seymour no longer makes me curl into ball, assume a fetal position, and cry for my mother.

I've slain that emotional dragon, thank you very much. The psychotherapy is working.

You've likely never heard of Marty Seymour, but you should have. He's just a normal American male now, working for a living and trying to make ends meet. But 30 years ago, he was the biggest, badest, scariest pitcher in Little League history. According to me, and I should know. I was scared to death of him.

He pitched for the perennial league champion, Walters Blue Devils. I batted against him for the Empire Bulldogs – and notice I wrote "batted," not "hit." Nary a bat touched a ball when I faced Marty. I didn't stay in the batter's box long enough to consider swinging. Trust me, Citi Bank and I believe bailouts are acceptable when life – or Marty – throws you a high-heater.

The last time I saw Marty he was 11 years old and 7-foot-2. Fire flew from his fingertips. He could swat helicopters from the sky, and there were rumors he'd once eaten a teammate for having the audacity to foul off one of his pitches during practice.

My parents, coaches, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, tutors, pastor, deacon, doctor, sports psychologist, and music teacher tried to convince me that Marty put on his pants the same way I did. Of course, his pants were twice as long as mine – and besides, what did pants have to do with this? Marty wasn't throwing his pants. He was throwing fastballs ... very hard ... in my direction.

I was about 2-foot-5, 29 pounds, which meant I hit leadoff. During pregame, we'd watch intently to see who was going to the mound for Walters. It was always Marty. The guy apparently never went to church camp or took a mid-week lake vacation.

We'd watch him warm-up and listen to the ball hit his catcher's mitt, and we'd be ready to quit on the spot. He was like Freddie Kruger with a fastball, before I knew there was a Freddie Kruger ... or a fastball.

I hadn't thought of Marty in 30 years. I'd buried the knowledge of his existence deep in the dark regions of my mind. But this spring, I started helping coach a Little League team. Go Mets!, and we faced the Red Sox last Tuesday. Some kid named Dillon was throwing heat for the Sox all night long. And our kids, some of them, bailed out of the batter's box when they saw smoke coming off the ball. 

"Stay in the box. Stop diving out," our head coach implored.

And it was those sentences – "Stay in the box. Stop diving out." – that caused Marty Seymour to pop back into my mind. This Dillon kid was doing a Marty Seymour impersonation.

He breezed the next pitch past home plate. Our batter jumped out of the box. And with the thought of Marty still dancing through my mind, I looked at our batter and thought, 'Good job, stay safe, little man.'

"Strike one," the umpire said.

'Marty Seymour,' I thought. 'I wonder which major league team he ended up pitching for.'

This called for an investigation – and the Internet. Thanks to, I found one Marty Seymour, 41, living in ... Walters, Okla.

I dialed the number. "Hello, I'm looking for a Marty Seymour."

"This is he."

"Hey, Marty, this is going to sound crazy. I'm a writer with the newspaper in Chickasha, and I'm writing a column about my Little League playing days. Did you pitch for Walters in Little League?"

"Yes, that was me. Who did you say you played for."


"Oh, you played with Mike Walls and Russ ... the skinny catcher. What was his name?"

"Snow ... Russ Snow." Holy cheese he remembered us.

Now that I had Marty The Magnificent on the phone, I wanted the answer to two questions: (1) Did he know how dominant of a pitcher he was? And: (2) Which major league team did he pitch for?

"I always thought there were other pitchers in the league who were as dominant, if not more dominant, than I was. I always thought .... (No, he's not going to say it) ... I put my pants on the same as everyone else." Oh, geez. The pants thing again. 

"I was blessed with good size," he said. "If it's any consolation, I haven't grown any since I was 14." Just my luck, I faced him at the end of his growth spurt.

But, it turns out that Marty never pitched in the major leagues. Walters didn't field a high school baseball team until Marty's senior year. He played that year – and yes, he pitched.

"Some of the home runs I gave up still haven't come down," he said.

"In fact, that year, Empire beat us in the district playoffs. I struck out looking for the final out, and that was my last game as a Walters Blue Devil."

Marty pitched that day – and Empire beat him. No way. 

So, to my Miracle Mets, I say, “give it time.” The monsters eventually become human, and the ball slows down. One day, maybe you'll be an accountant like Marty. And if so, please remember me. I'll probably need a loan.

Kelly Wray is managing editor of The Express-Star.


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