Thursday, July 03, 2014 11:42 PM
Meet the Tobs: Seth LaRue
Campbell rising senior now in 3rd different summer league
By Jimmy Lewis Staff Writer
Unquestionably, Wilson Tobs first baseman Seth LaRue comes from a baseball family.
While LaRue currently hones his craft during the spring at Campbell University, he isn’t the only one of his siblings to play the game at the NCAA Division I level.
LaRue’s older brother, Hank, finished up his career at Conference USA member Middle Tennessee State this season, and his younger brother, Will, begins his collegiate career with Xavier University of the Big East Conference in 2015.
The CPL represents the third summer league in which LaRue has played. He played for the Carolina-Virginia Summer Collegiate League’s West Virginia Wild in 2012 before spending a summer with the Hopkinsville Hoppers in the Ohio Valley League.
A rising senior at Campbell, LaRue helped the Camels (41-21) to their first NCAA regional appearance since 1990 by winning the Big South Conference tournament title. In his first season after arriving from Olney (Illinois) Central College of the National Junior College Athletic Association Div. I ranks, LaRue batted .263 with six doubles, two home runs and 23 runs batted in. One of those homers came against South Carolina in the Columbia Regional.
LaRue, a first baseman with one CPL Hitter of the Week accolade to his credit, has taken well to the wooden bats of summer. The Evansville, Indiana product leads Tobs everyday starters with a .328 average and has 18 starts in 19 games since arriving in town. LaRue has amassed 12 RBIs, three doubles and two home runs.
Times sports reporter Jimmy Lewis sat down with LaRue on Monday to talk about baseball, life and his time so far in Wilson.
Wilson Times: What do you think of your time so far in Wilson?
Seth LaRue: "It’s been great so far between all the coaches and teammates, and then definitely the fans have all been welcoming. It’s made for a really good experience.”
WT: You lead this team right now in batting average among everyday starters. You’ve handled the transition to the wood bat very well here in the CPL. What’s your approach up there at the plate?
SL: "It’s pretty much the same. I’ve played in wood bat leagues the past two years, so it’s not big of a transition for me. It’s simply a different game, but you just have to keep playing baseball the right way and try the find the barrel a few more times.”
WT: You’ve been pretty much a summer league veteran these past three years. Does the CPL represent the toughest summer league competition you’ve faced so far?
SL: "Yeah. The other leagues I’ve been to, (the CPL) is definitely the best league. You see a lot of guys from around here in this area that play at schools like Campbell, (North Carolina) State, Carolina, that kind of stuff. You see a lot of big D-I schools and a lot of good players, a lot of good talent.”
WT: Is that what makes the CPL what it is? Just the opportunity to go up against some high-caliber competition from D-I schools?
SL. "Definitely. You see a lot of good players, and just playing the game a lot helps out. Your baseball IQ definitely goes up the more you play.”
WT: You’ve taken well to hitting with the wood bat, and you kind of have to because if you hit it in the wrong spot with wood, it’s not going to go very far.
SL: "I think it mostly comes from repetition, really. You have to get a good feel for the wood bat. It’s different, but the swing doesn’t really change. You can’t be afraid to break the bats or anything like that. You just have to be comfortable.”
WT: In North Carolina from a college baseball perspective, Campbell has really been a program on the rise in the past few years. Coach (Greg) Goff when he was there, really wanted to make an impact bringing in a lot of junior-college players to really get that program going, and you were one of them.
SL: "It’s difficult for Campbell to recruit against some of the bigger schools. Because there’s a lot of big schools around us, so I think we definitely take advantage of junior-college players. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to get a spot at Campbell and help make an impact.”
WT: What’s been the key to their rise?
SL: "Obviously, I wasn’t part of the teams five, six, seven years ago, but they didn’t have a lot of success. But those were teams that helped build the success for now. They put in a lot of hard work to make the program what it is, and really just players over the years buying into Coach Goff — what he’s coaching, teaching and I think over time, it’s led to a lot of the success Campbell has had.”
WT: What’s the biggest transition from the BBCOR’s to the pure wood bats?SL: "Really, they hit close to the same as far as distance and stuff. I think with a wood bat, you definitely have to be more comfortable because you have really have to hit it in a certain spot to really square it up. It’s a smaller sweet spot, so that’s of the biggest thing. If you get jammed, you’re going to break the wood bat and obviously with a metal bat, it’s not going to break.”
WT: (Wednesday night) begins the sprint to the finish in the Coastal Plain League. The second half of the season starts and you’ve got 28 games to go beginning (Wednesday). What has this team learned about itself that it can take into the second half and make a run at the second-half title?
SL: "At times, we were a little inconsistent in the first half and I think that had to do with just playing with each other and familiarity. As the end of the month kind of came up on us, we started to play a lot better. Whenever we played Edenton the first few times, we kind of got waxed by them. But this last game (a 4-1 Tobs win Monday) obviously, we played really well and now we know we can play with all the teams in the CPL.”
WT: "Coming into (Wednesday), two straight games without an error. If you can get by tonight without making one, it will be the first time all season you guys have gone three straight games without an error. I know defensive improvement is something you guys have really wanted to work on.” (The Tobs had five errors in Wednesday’s 16-0 loss to Forest City.)
SL: "I think that’s been a key part to our success as of late. Not giving the other teams extra bases and extra runs, because especially when you play in a wood bat league, giving up extra runs and free runs and bases will definitely get you beat a lot of the games.”
WT: Who is your host family this summer?
SL: "The Buchans, Gentry and Sanborn.”
WT: I saw on your Twitter before I came over here that you had to beat them up in Monopoly a little bit. What’s the strategy there?
SL: "It’s been a while since I played Monopoly, but we had a little off day. We had a rainout, came back and there wasn’t a whole lot to do. It was about 6 o’ clock, and they asked if I wanted to play. I didn’t have a whole lot better to do, and I guess I just got a few lucky rolls and taking the cake on that one.”
WT: What’s the best color group to own?
SL: "That’s a tough one. You know, I don’t even know many of the colors exactly. But the railroads were a key part to my victory on that one.”
WT: If someone goes to jail, sometimes the orange color groups are good. Because when they go to jail, they get stuck in that "just visiting” spot and they roll an 8 or a 9. There’s a hotel on that, and it’s an easy way to make some money.
SL: "Definitely. It takes a little luck and a little skill at the same time.”
WT: Are you a shrewd negotiator? Did you win by swindling them in trades?
SL: "I’d have to say that was one of the stronger parts of my game.”
WT: With Coach Goff leaving Campbell and going over to Louisiana Tech, you’ve played with a couple of Tech guys this summer (Braden Bristo and Taylor Nichols). I don’t know if you’ve talked to them about it, but what can you say about (Goff) and what will he do at Tech?
SL: "They have definitely asked questions and I have definitely given them some answers, because I really enjoyed playing for Coach Goff. A lot of times it wasn’t really easy, because he pushes his players and he gets a lot out of his players. But they just have to be ready — ready to get to work as soon as they get there because there’s going to be a lot expected. But they’re both good players and hard workers, so they’ll be fine.”
WT: In the meantime, Campbell opted to go with some continuity. They promoted the associate head coach (Justin Haire), and you guys are going to keep going that way.
SL: "I think it’s going to be an easy transition with Coach Haire coming in. I really enjoyed playing for Coach Haire, and he’s taught me a lot. I think a lot of the new guys are going to enjoy playing for him. I think he’s going to bring a lot of continued success to the program.”
WT: This college season, you really came on when it mattered. Big South championship aside, you hit a home run in the NCAA regionals against South Carolina. That had to be pretty cool.
SL: "It was definitely really cool. Definitely a moment I won’t forget, but quieting down about 8,000 fans is a pretty cool moment.”
WT: What was that experience like? Those South Carolina fans have a reputation of being pretty rabid in the SEC.
SL: "They were pretty wild, but they were really good baseball fans. I think they did a good job of cheering for both teams, and they weren’t really too ‘crazy crazy.’ But they were definitely in the game and it was fun to play in front of that many people.”
WT: Did you consider any other sports before settling on baseball? Because in Indiana, I’m pretty sure that they stick basketballs in your crib at birth.
SL: "I played a little basketball, but with my height and speed and stuff, I wasn’t going to be able to play at the next level. Baseball is my first love, so it wasn’t really a hard decision. But I did really like playing basketball and basketball is definitely king in Indiana. I had a lot of fun with that.”
WT: World Cup. Did you follow it much?SL: "I did a little bit. Definitely when the USA was playing, I didn’t do a lot besides that, but I definitely cheered on the USA. They had a pretty good run, it was really exciting watching them, and kind of the whole country came together and cheered for the same cause.”
WT: Somebody jumped on Wikipedia and changed the U.S. Secretary of Defense to (U.S. goalkeeper) Tim Howard for a brief time. Could you get behind that endorsement?SL: "I actually did see that on Twitter. I thought that was pretty funny. He did do a really good job. He kind of put the team on his back there, so I thought it was pretty funny.”
WT: What are you majoring in at Campbell?
SL: "Exercise and sport science.”
WT: Any particular reason why you want to do that?
SL: "I’ve always been pretty good in science fields and stuff. I’ve always liked to stay in sports and exercising and stuff. I’ve always been interested in that, so it’s kind of where my studies shifted to.”
WT: Who’s the better player, you or Hank?
SL: "Right now I am — he’s currently not playing! He is a really good ballplayer and I know he’s continuing to try to play ball. But as of right now, it would be me.”
WT: What are your prospects for the next level?
SL: "I haven’t had a whole lot of attention to this point, but hopefully I have a really good end to the season. I’m having a good season for the Tobs right now, so hopefully that will open up a couple options and I’ll have a good season next year. We’ll see what happens.”
WT: Playing Team USA here at Fleming, what kind of experience was that for you?
SL: "It was a really good experience. We got our butts kicked, there’s no doubt about that, but it wasn’t really a terrible game. We might have had an error, but it wasn’t like we were kicking the ball around or anything. They were just hitting the tar out of the baseball, really. It was fun playing against all the high-caliber players from all around the country. It’s exciting going up against good pitching, like they have. It was a fun game.”
WT: What are some of your summer ball goals besides helping the Tobs win?
SL: "I’m trying to get better in some aspects of the game, but I think just playing every day and seeing some new situations always makes you better. It makes you a smarter baseball player. Definitely working on being more consistent as a hitter, and defensively too, just becoming better in every aspect of the game.”
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