MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — An instrumental piece of the Walters State baseball family is gone way too soon.
Joey Seaver, a 14-year assistant coach for the Senators under Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Hall of Fame Coach Ken Campbell and briefly head coach of the Walters State program, died unexpectedly Monday afternoon at the age of 54.
Seaver, who was named the head coach of the Senators in the fall of 2013 but left shortly after to become a pitching coach in the Texas Rangers organization, leaves behind many family and friends, but none more important than his wife Diana and his three children — Matthew, Hannah and Ryan.
Seaver joined the coaching staff at Walters State in 2000 following a 10-year stint as the pitching coach at Carson-Newman University, where he helped guide the Eagles to three South Atlantic Conference titles and a berth in the 1999 NCAA Division II World Series in his final season in Jefferson City.
Once joining Campbell's staff at Walters State, the Senators program soared to new heights, as the Senators amassed a 650-162-1 record in his 14 years on staff. WSCC won at least 37 games each season, including 40-plus wins in 12 of the 14 campaigns, and the Senators participated in the JUCO World Series in Grand Junction, Colorado, five times (2003, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2013) during his tenure, including a national championship in 2006.
While in Morristown, Seaver coached more than 30 pitchers who were drafted by Major League teams, and his 2006 pitching staff set school records for wins (61) and strikeouts (465) that year, although the strikeout record has recently been broken. In the summer of 2006, he was hired by the Boston Red Sox to serve as the pitching coach for their Single-A club in Lowell, Massachusetts.
Seaver also played on the 1984 Walters State team that advanced to the JUCO World Series for the first time in program history. He later starred at the University of Tennessee after being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth round of the Major League Draft in the summer of 1984. He went on to pitch for two seasons in the Brewers farm system after being drafted four times during his collegiate career.
After four years in the Rangers organization, Seaver spent the 2018 season as the pitching coach for the Bristol Pirates in the Appalachian League, marking a homecoming of sorts for the Church Hill native and Volunteer High School graduate.
As news of Seaver's death began to surface, many of his former colleagues, friends and players posted support for him and his family via social media and through statements. Below are some of those words, which paint Seaver as more than just a coach, but a great man, a role model, a supportive friend and a father figure.
Dave Shelton, Walters State head baseball coach
"I was fortunate enough to work with Joey for 10 years here at Walters State, sharing an office together and rooming together on the road. I can honestly say he was one of the best mentors and inspirations for me, both as a coach and as a person that I have had. He truly cared about each and every one of his players and would do anything to help anyone at any time. Being able to learn from him for 10 years is one of the biggest blessings of my life. Knowing Joey made you want to be a better person and be your best at everything you did. I know I am a better coach and person because of the time I spent with him, and Walters State baseball would not be the program it is today if it were not for him. I will always cherish his friendship and will always remember the impact he had on my life."
Brent Achord, former Carson-Newman head baseball coach
"Joey Seaver, one of the best men to ever put on a uniform. I'm sure I'm one of thousands that could say this, but Joey treated me like I was Casey Stengel when I was a young, naive coach. The man knew more about pitching than I ever will, yet he made you feel like you were superior."
Larry Simcox, former Tennessee and Ole Miss assistant baseball coach
"I'm sorry to hear about the passing of Joey Seaver. He was a great coach but a better man. He was probably the most humble guy I have ever been around and never heard him say a negative word about anyone. He will be missed by many."
Fred Corral, Missouri pitching coach
"Today, I lost a wonderful brother in Joey Seaver. He was the best. He had integrity and character second to none. He served those around him. He is everything I hope to someday become. I am going to miss you brother. I love you, and I thank you for the part of me that is you."
Chad Bell, former Walters State and Major League pitcher
"I was lucky enough to be able to call Joey Seaver my coach, but it was an honor to call hum my friend. One of the most caring people I have ever met, and you will be missed by so many. Being able to leave you a ticket at my Major League debut was something I'll never forget."
Chris Gordon, Duke Director of Baseball Operations
"Saying Joey Seaver was a great man doesn't do him justice. He was so humble and accomplished. All he cared about was helping others. He took time out in the summer of 2016 and spent a few days talking pitching at ETSU. I will always remember that. Coaching lost one of the greats today."
Cody Church, Maryville College head baseball coach
"I hate to hear about the passing of Joey Seaver. Anyone familiar at all with baseball in this area knows he was one of the best to ever teach it. It was clear to see how much he poured into his players. Our sport lost a great coach and man."
Matt Ford, Morristown East head baseball coach
"I'm truly at a loss for words to hear of the passing of Coach Joey Seaver. One of the greatest men and coaches I've ever played for. He made me desire to be a coach and build relationships with players, teaching them the game, but more importantly, values we all hold dear. I'm truly devastated."
Justin Pickett, Morristown West head baseball coach
"My heart aches today. My dear friend has gone to heaven. Joey was the absolute best. He truly cared about the ones around him. He made you strive to be great. He cared about all of his players like they were his own. He listened, asked questions about life, encouraged, gave valuable advice and molded young men into great men. He cared about the little things. He taught me to do things right the first time. If it was important enough to you to do it, do it with all your heart. He was such a great role model to many people. Joey had such an impact on the game of baseball, but it doesn't come close to the positive influence he had on so many people's lives. He encouraged many men to dream big and to follow their dreams. I'm blessed to have all the memories. I am a better man today because of you my friend. Joey, I thank you and love you. You won't be forgotten."
Eric Blevins, former Walters State pitcher
"I got to see Coach Seaver this past summer and was so pumped to talk to him. He came up and hugged me just like when I pitched for him. He cared so much for his guys. He was such a competitor. We would have it out in the dugout about pitch calls and strategy and then talk about it later. I can't say enough about the guy. I loved him."
Zach Walton, former Walters State pitcher
"I'm heartbroken to hear of the passing of my former pitching coach Joey Seaver. He had such a huge influence on my life and so many others he coached. I would not be where I am today if it was not for him. One of the best to ever coach the game, and more than that, a truly amazing man. I have so many great memories playing for him."
Chuck Hargis, former Walters State player
"The way the world works is mind boggling to me sometimes. Today we lost a great man, leader and coach. Joey Seaver was one of the best coaches I ever played for. He impacted my life as a person and was a role model I looked to as a coach myself. I just had a phone conversation with him today and had lunch planned with him next week to catch up. We lost a great one, and too early."
Jared Gaston, former Walters State player
"I'm going to miss you Coach. Thanks for always checking up on me and genuinely caring. You are the true definition of what it means to be the example. I love you Coach. Thanks for all you did."
Aaron Quillen, former Walters State pitcher
"I'm so sad to hear of the passing of Coach Joey Seaver. I guarantee you there's not a guy in this world who played for him that can honestly say they had a coach that cared or them like he did. He was the most genuine person I've ever had the pleasure of meeting while playing ball."