Matt Seelinger's parents say he was born with a bat and ball in his hands. He remembers playing whiffle ball with his father when he was four years old. At the age of 12 he joined a team that traveled a lot – pretty much putting an end to family vacations. In high school he was named to the All County team and at Farmingdale he set career and single-season records for pitching, won accolades galore, and achieved a dream he had since gripping that whiffle ball.
Seelinger, Class of '17, was the first Farmingdale baseball player ever drafted by a Major League Baseball team when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 28th round of the 2017 draft.
The Pirates had scouted Seelinger—rare for an NCAA Division III program, even one as historically successful as Farmingdale's—and invited him for a tryout. That's when the dream began to fall into place. When draft day came in June, a month after graduation, Matt's name was called.
We were jumping up and down," said Matt's father, Tom. "It was a great Father's Day gift. This is icing on the cake. We went out and bought lots of Pirates gear."
Matt's first stop in the big leagues was with the West Virginia Black Bears of the New York-Penn League. And he excelled in the shortened summer season with 37 strikeouts in 30 innings and a 1.80 ERA.
My debut was at home, and I came in the 6th inning. I wish I could describe how it felt seeing my picture and name on the scoreboard as the announcer is saying my name to come in the game. I will never forget that moment. When the gates to the bullpen opened and I went running towards the mound it was like no other feeling in the world." Both of Seelinger's parents encouraged Matt's passion, but it was Tom who enlisted for hands-on duty. He was especially active once Matt joined the town little league team.
There is nobody that has a greater knowledge, love or passion for the game than my father," Matt says. "He never doubted my abilities. Stood by every strike, ball or walk. Cheered me on, and when necessary, gave me the critique I needed to get past a bad outing. I would not be here if not for him."
In his junior year at Farmingdale Matt began "turning it on," as his dream of becoming a pro began to take shape. "Every boy that starts out in baseball wants to be the next 'Jeter.' I just wanted to be a professional."
In his third year as a Ram standout, Matt was on his way to setting school records with his patented "knuckle drop" pitch. That's when he started noticing scouts in the stands, particularly one from the Pirates.
He advised me there are no guarantees," Matt says. "He told me they liked my stuff. The rest is a long, nail-biting time. But once you get that call on draft day, you forget about that stuff. It's the best feeling ever."
So too for Tom, who missed only three games in Matt's long career in organized ball – and that was because he was recovering from back surgery. "I take nothing for granted," Matt said. "I continue to work hard every day. I want to get to the next level. It will not come easy, but I believe I can do it. I can now call myself a professional baseball player."