Seymour foundation turns tragedy to triumph with baseball clinic

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- The one constant through nearly the last 200 years has been baseball. America has rolled by, shaped and rebuilt dozens of times, but baseball has marked the time.

The field, the game, it's a part of America's fabric. It's in our genes. It's a reminder of a time that once was good, and what could be again.

On Saturday, it was that hope that pulled together several college and pro baseball players, the father of a man who was killed in downtown Charleston last year, and a couple dozen young players hoping to make it to the pros.

It was the first major event of the Clint Seymour Play Ball Foundation, an organization started by the 27-year-old's father and several of his friends and family members to turn Clint Seymour's tragic and untimely death into an opportunity to help the community.

For Neil Walker, the Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman who has known the Seymour family for the last 20 years, the event and being part of the foundation was about honoring Clint's memory.

"Nobody loved baseball more than Clint did. Nobody worked as hard as he did. That's part of the reason we're here today," he said.

It was a chance to impart knowledge of a game that Walker and Clint Seymour loved, a game they grew up playing together.

"Through Clint and through the four other gentlemen who are here with us today, we've known each other for 20-plus years and we've stood by each other through the good times, through the bad times," he said.

For Don Seymour, Clint's father, the day was a bittersweet challenge. In less than a year, he'd lost his son and founded an organization that brought together great players with two dozen kids looking to learn more about the sport they love.

When Don Seymour speaks of his son and of his love of baseball, some days tears flow easier than words. Saturday was one such day.

He wiped away tears as Walker clasped his shoulder. "This is wonderful," Seymour said. "Wonderful."

"I think the one thing that Don expressed to us these last couple days and over these last several months is how can we help the younger kids; how can we honor Clint; but more than that how can we give back to the communities," said Walker.

But the kids the Clint Seymour Play Ball Foundation is helping gives him hope for better days still. His goal to help kids who love baseball experience the joy of the sport, all while building lasting friendships.

"I want everyone to be exposed to someone who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played, and if you get a chance to watch Neil Walker play baseball live, watch him. Watch him when he's in the field. Watch him when he's in the dugout. Watch him when he's relating to his opponents. Watch him when he's relating to his teammates. Watch him when he's relating to his umpires," Seymour said.

"He does it the right way. "

The foundation started almost immediately after Clint Seymour's death, his father said.

Nine months ago, Clint Seymour was on King Street late one night with friends. He'd recently landed a job in Charleston and was enjoying the city's nightlife.

There was a joke, an argument, and someone threw a punch that knocked Clint Seymour out. He was hospitalized for a few days before he died.

Dalton Clarke, a 24-year-old Charleston man attorneys described as having a string of violent outbursts, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Clint's death.

To hold the event in Charleston was to throw the tragedy of last April back in the face of the man accused of causing it.

"Whoever did this to my son, this is our answer. This is in your face. This is our response. You can take away his life but you can't take away his dreams -- and the best place to deliver that message is right here where it happened," Seymour said.

Because of media coverage of that fateful night, Seymour said his son's name had been associated, at least in Charleston, with a tragic death. It was something he wanted to change.

"I want Charleston to know how he lived, not how he died. And the young people in Charleston can learn a lot more from Clint's memory about how he lived than how he died," Seymour said.

"Essentially that's what the purpose of the foundation is: continue his legacy. And by doing that, by reaching out to young people and making sure they have an opportunity to play."

It's a cause Clint Seymour would have loved and to which he would have devoted much of his time and energy.

"We can't bring Clint back, and that's the most unfortunate thing of all -- how can we move forward in a positive light," asked Walker.

Then Walker picked up a bat, stepped into the cage, and explained the reality of being a professional baseball player. Far removed from the cheering crowds and iconic stadiums, there's the quiet routines.

Walker likens it to the movie "Groundhog Day," not only in the sense that he and every other pro player go through day after day after day doing the same thing but also in that there is a lot of failure in what Bill Murray did trying to get out of the repeating cycle during the movie.

"When you think about baseball, you think about how much of a game of failure it is. At my level, if you're 30 percent successful as a hitter, that's All Star-level," Walker said.

It's something that's hard to comprehend, he adds.

"You learn so much more about yourself and about the people around you by failure and not by the good times. Everybody's happy when things are going well, but you find out the character of people when it's not going so well," he said.

Walker takes swings from a tee, explaining the science behind each decision. If boxing is the sweet science, then baseball is the beautiful machine. Walker's shoulders and hips swing with the bat. The connection can be seen from his cleats to the tip of his bat.

It's a drill on precision and preparation, a routine repeated so often and for so long it's a part of him.

"He is the poster child for the value that playing baseball and committing yourself at a younger age to baseball, and getting as much from this wonderful game as the youth can get from it," said Seymour.

Where the two dozen kids looked on eagerly at Walker taking swings and fielding questions, taking in as much from his experience as they could, Seymour also dished out some life lessons to the crowd -- and to Walker.

"And just understand that when you're done playing baseball -- and yes, even this guy will quit playing baseball -- that the values you absorb when playing this game they'll stay with you a lot longer than the years you played baseball," he said.

More important than the ball, the bat, the practice, and the routine, there's the people.

"When you surround yourself with quality people with quality characteristics, it makes you want to succeed and be better in all aspects of your life," Walker said.

With the first clinic in the bag for the Clint Seymour Play Ball Foundation, it's clear the men leading the clinic have done just that and they're carrying the message forward.

Out of tragedy, triumph.

The field, the game, it's a part of America's fabric. It's in our genes. It's a reminder of a time that once was good, and what could be again.

That's what Don Seymour and Neil Walker are building -- in Clint's name.

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