Editor’s note: Baltimore Watchdog reporters enrolled in a sports journalism course conducted group interviews with Towson athletes in late October. Below are their profile stories.
By Jill Gattens
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Stepping off the pitcher’s mound, Towson’s Josh Seils focuses on finding a steady breath. He searches for a focal point inside John B. Schuerholz Park, settles down and is ready to throw his next pitch. That routine helps Seils stay focused during his starts for the Towson baseball team.
During the 2019 season, Seils made the adjustment from a reliever to Towson’s Friday starter — usually considered the ace of the staff.
“Being a reliever, you have to be ready every game,” said Seils, a junior. “Any given pitch coach could say go down and get warmed up. But the Friday spot, it was pretty much you’re going to go as long as you possibly can on Friday and then whatever happens happens and you get another shot next Friday.”
Originally, Seils was not slated to be the Friday starter. About a week before their first game of the season, the Tigers’ projected ace, Dean Stramara, went down with an elbow injury. Seils was the next man up.
“They just threw me out there as a sophomore and it was nerve-wracking at first, but I loved it,” Seils said. “I loved knowing that Friday nights I had the ball, my teammates trusted me to get as many outs as I possibly could and compete my butt off.”
Towson pitching coach Miles Miller said Seils earned the nod after out-pitching everyone since the beginning of the fall.
“We didn’t know if he was ready for that role yet, but I quickly realized he was,” Miller said. “He embraced it from the day I told him he would start on Friday nights and hasn’t looked back. He has earned everything he has gotten with his work ethic and competitiveness.”
Over the course of the season, Seils’ biggest adjustment was making the jump from reliever to top starter.
“It was mostly just a mental thing for me, just kind of locking in and making sure I’m ready every pitch and every Friday, I got to be prepared,” Seils said. “I can’t be messing around. I got to get my sleep Thursday nights and all that, so it was a little bit of adjustment but once I found it, it was pretty easy for me to keep that train rolling.”
Miller described Seils’ work ethic as “professional,” as he has “completely bought into what it takes to be successful at this level.
“He is consistent in his routine and performs it each week with purpose and focus,” Miller said. “He communicates well when he doesn’t feel great and we modify when we need to, but with Josh it isn’t some secret formula – he just works as hard as anyone I’ve coached every day and knows what he wants to be.”
A native of Olney, Maryland, Seils began playing baseball at age 6 after his father, Phil, signed him up for t-ball. This led him to playing for the Olney Pirates and high school baseball for Sherwood High School. It wasn’t until his junior year he realized he could play at the collegiate level.
Describing himself as a “late bloomer” when it came to high school baseball, Seils said he “threw hard, but not exceptionally and it wasn’t eye opening” until his junior year. He began playing on travel teams and played with kids who were at mid-major schools. It was there he realized he was as good as them and he could play at that level as well.
Towson was the only Division I school that offered him a scholarship, but that was not the only reason he chose it. During his overnight visit, he enjoyed his time with the team and the former coaching staff.
“It just felt like home,” Seils said.
Throughout the first two years of his collegiate career, Seils worked with coaches on his arsenal of pitches.
“It’s always you just got to get better because there’s something I can always on to be better,” Seils said. “I’m always going to want to get better regardless if we have a good season or a bad season. But it’s pretty much all aspects you get better on whether it’s me or I got to bring a teammate with me. I’ll do anything with them for my team so they can get better.”
For the upcoming year, Seils is preparing to become a leader.
“I definitely want to take my leadership up a little bit,” Seils said. “I think now I kind of have a voice. We have so many news guys on the team this year, so many [junior college] guys and freshmen. I felt that I have a pretty good grip over my two years knowing what to do and how to go about my business and stuff.”
Miller said Seils will continue to develop and improve in the upcoming season.
“I expect him to pick up where he left off last spring and give us a chance to win when we hand him the ball,” Miller said. “He has a big challenge ahead of him, and I know he will embrace it and take it had on. I’m excited to see him take the next step in his development as a player and as a man and I hope I can help him along the way.”
By Jalon Dixon
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
It was July 2011. Twelve-year-old Josh Seils stepped up to the plate in the quarterfinals of a national youth baseball tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, New York.
His team, Maryland’s Olney Pirates, trailed 6-5 to the Lonestar Cougars from Texas. Two runners were on base. Seils was 0 for 2 and in a slump. He remembers that his coach asked him to bunt, but he did something quite different.
Seils crushed a fastball over the middle of the plate over the left field fence for a walk-off 3-run home run, giving the Pirates a 8-6 in what he calls “the most euphoric moment of my life.”
“Back then I was small,” Seils said. “I was not one of the main guys on the team hitting wise. So I wouldn’t say no one was expecting it, but it definitely caught a bunch of my teammates by surprise that I was the one to hit it. It even caught me by surprise a little bit. But I don’t think people were going in thinking I was going to be the hero for that game or that we’d even get to that game.”
Few people doubt Seils’ abilities any longer. Now a junior at Towson, Seils is the Tigers’ Friday starter — in the business of keeping hitters from having the kind of euphoric moments he had as a youth baseball player.
Seils, a Brookeville, Maryland native, had an illustrious high school career under head coach Sean Davis at Sherwood High School. He led his team to an undefeated season as a junior. He earned Maryland 4A player of the year, USA Today second-team all-state and Washington Post second-team all-met as a senior. He was even selected to the Brooks Robinson All-Star game at Camden Yards.
Coming to Towson was a transition. He mostly pitched in relief, and he had to get used to going up against bigger, stronger hitters. In 14 appearances coming out of the bullpen, Seils went 1-2 with a 10.24 ERA. Last year, as a sophomore, an unexpected opportunity opened for Seils as the former Friday starter Dean Stramara suffered an elbow injury. With a week left before opening day, he was named the team’s Friday starter.
“They kind of just threw me out there as a sophomore,” Seils said. “It was nerve wracking at first, but I loved it. I love knowing that Friday nights I have the ball and my teammates trusted me to get as many outs as I possibly could and compete my butt off.”
Seils started 13 games, pitched 78.2 innings and had 56 strikeouts. Despite going 2-8 with a 4.0 ERA, he showed flashes throughout the season, with a victory over eventual Atlantic-10 champion Fordham that earned him named CAA Pitcher of the Week.
The adjustment from reliever to starter was significant, but Seils embraced this new challenge.
“Being a reliever, you have to be ready every game,” Seils said. “Any given pitch coach could say ‘Go down and get warmed up’ and stuff. But, the Friday spot, it was pretty much you’re going to go as long as you possibly could on Friday and then whatever happens happens and then you’ll get another shot next Friday. So, it’s not like I’m in the relief in the other game in the weekend or any of that. It was a big adjustment, but I loved it. I could really focus my time and energy just to be ready for Friday.”
Towson pitching coach Miles Miller was instrumental in helping Seils through the transition. Miller didn’t recruit Seils to Towson, but they quickly formed a connection.
“I think we have a great working relationship, and one that can only realistically be achieved by working as closely as we have for two-and-a-half years,” Miller said. “We don’t always agree on everything — and that’s a good thing because I want our guys to be able to communicate with me on things they don’t understand or agree with, but I know he has the best interests of the team and the pitching staff in mind at all times. I trust him fully, and value what he tells me, and I hope he feels that he can approach me whenever he needs to about things on or off the field.”
In his junior year, Seils wants to add to — and improve on — the pitches in his arsenal and also develop into a leader.
“I definitely want to take my leadership up a little bit,” Seils said. “I think now I kind of have a voice with so many new guys on the team this year, so many JUCO guys and freshmen, I think I have a pretty good grip over my two years knowing what to do and how to go about my business.”
Added Miller: “I expect Josh to continue to take on more of a leadership role, as he has already done, and help the pitching staff continue to improve and chase the goals we have set for ourselves. I expect him to pick up where he left off last spring and give us a chance to win when we hand him the ball. He has a big challenge ahead of him, and I know he will embrace it and take it head on. I am excited to see him take the next step in his development as a player and as a man and I hope I can help him along the way.”
Seils has dreams of playing professional baseball. But right now he’s focused on making the most of his remaining eligibility at Towson.
“I enjoy my time out there because everyone’s time is very limited while they’re on the baseball field because one day you’re not going to be playing baseball anymore,” he said.
By Chris Cobb
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Imagine you’re a 12-year-old baseball player playing in one of the biggest tournaments of your life in Cooperstown, New York — home of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Your team is in the quarterfinals, losing 6-5 in the final inning. With a runner on first and second, all the pressure is on your shoulders to extend the game. You’ve been struggling at the plate, going 0-2 with two strikeouts. You crush the first pitch you see — a fastball right down the middle — over the left-field wall to give your team an 8-6 victory.
Nearly a decade later, Josh Seils still refers to that moment — the one that sent his Olney Pirates team to a victory in the national youth tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park — as the “most euphoric” of his life.
But it nearly didn’t happen.
“Rumor has it, my coach gave me the bunt sign, but I didn’t see it,” Seils said. “That was probably the best moment I’ve had my entire life. I blacked out from how excited I was.”
Seils has two more years of eligibility on the Towson baseball team to surpass that moment. He’s moved from a hitter, as he was throughout his youth baseball career, to the Tigers’ Friday starter.
Throughout his career, he’s had to outwork everyone on the baseball field. He began playing baseball at age 6 and was undersized. His dad, Phil, encouraged him to try out for the Olney Pirates. On that youth baseball team, he wasn’t one of the best hitters. Seils’ teammates were shocked he was the one to hit the walk-off home run. It even caught him by surprise.
Few teammates doubted Seils’ talent in high school. He attended Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Maryland, where as a senior he pitched 24.2 innings and posted a 1.14 ERA along with 33 strikeouts. He was also a point guard for the basketball team until his senior year when he decided to stick to baseball.
He racked up accolades and led his baseball team to an undefeated season. In 2017, Seils, an avid Baltimore Orioles fan, had the opportunity to do something every Orioles fan — perhaps every baseball fan would love to do — play at Camden Yards as part of a high school showcase game.
“It was awesome,” Seils said. “It was the best place I’ve ever played even though absolutely no one was there. It was still so cool. I loved playing there.”
Seils was recruited to play baseball at Towson. Head coach Mike Gottlieb was fired in 2017, and Matt Tyner took over (with Miles Miller as pitching coach), leaving Seils unsure of his role on the team.
“They didn’t recruit me so at first it was scary,” Seils said. “I was a freshman coming in. I never talked to coach Tyner before in my life. It was a little bit scary, but obviously I did alright earning my spot and where I am now.”
Seils wasn’t slated to be the Friday night starter coming into the 2018 season. But when Dean Stramara, the team’s ace, suffered an elbow injury in the preseason, Seils got the call.
“Josh earned [the role],” Miller said. “When we had the discussions about what to do when Dean got hurt, ultimately it came down to the fact that Josh has outpitched everyone since the beginning of fall. We didn’t know if he was ready for that role yet, but I quickly realized that he was.”
As a freshman, Seils had primarily been a reliever for the Tigers. There were adjustments Seils needed to make. Being a reliever, you never know when the coach will tell you to go to the bullpen to get ready. Being the Friday starter, he knows that Fridays are his moment, and he can focus all his energy on being prepared.
Despite not recruiting Seils, Miller has formed a strong bond with the pitcher.
“I think we have a great working relationship, and one that can only be realistically achieved by working as closely as we have for two and a half years,” Miller said.
Miller said Seils has taken on more of a leadership role and has helped the pitching staff improve coming into the season.
Seils is working to improve on his pitches. His fastball tops out around 94 mph. Many college pitchers struggle to get outs in “fastball counts,” but Seils can get outs. His curveball is his strikeout pitch, and he has a changeup that he is still developing.
And, of course, he has his superstitions — as do many players.
“If I’m going well and if I’m not talking to anyone I won’t talk to anyone until I’m done,” Seils said. “And if I get my spot in the dugout, I’ll make sure my spot is there for when I get back. I won’t let anyone sit or put their stuff there. I’ll move it if I have to.”
Seils hopes he gets that silent treatment often in the upcoming season. He hopes to play professionally, and this is a crucial year for him to improve on his overall record (2-8 last year) and help Towson get back on the winning track.
By Timothy Dashiell
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Josh Seils keeps to himself before his starts. Towson’s Friday starter has a gameday routine that often begins after coming from class with a pair of headphones blasting his warm-up playlist. He does about 20 minutes of stretching and resistance-band exercises. He takes a jog around John B. Schuerholz Park and then it’s time for a bullpen session.
Seils isn’t worried about the quantity of throws he makes before starts. He works on making quality pitches — especially his curveball, his strikeout pitch that he describes as “more of a 1-7 instead of the 12-6 that people normally throw.”
Seils’ routine seems to have paid off — the junior is Towson’s ace and provided a sense of stability during a rocky 14-39 season. Seils was jut 2-8, but he showed flashes during his sophomore year.
The 6 foot 2 inch from Brookeville, Maryland, wasn’t even the original Friday starter for the Tigers coming into last year. After a preseason elbow injury to Dean Stramara, Seils got the call from second-year head coach Matt Tyner and pitching coach Miles Miller.
“He earned it,” Miller said. “When we had the discussions about what to do when Dean [Stramara] got hurt, ultimately it came down to the fact that Josh has outpitched everyone since the beginning of the fall. We didn’t know if he was ready for that role yet, but I quickly realized that he was.”
Once Seils settled into his new role, he loved and embraced the fact that every Friday he was the man in control.
“It was definitely nerve wracking at first but, I loved it, I loved knowing that every Friday night by teammates and coaches trusted me to get us as many outs as possible and compete my butt off.” Seils said.
Seils led the team with 13 games started, and in seven of those starts he gave up three runs or fewer. He was named CAA Pitcher of the Week after tossing eight shutout innings with six strikeouts in an 8-0 victory over eventual Atlantic-10 champion Fordham.
“He competed extremely well,” Miller said. “He isn’t afraid of the moment and wants the ball. His skills will continue to develop because he works at it, but his competitiveness and guts are what sets him apart from the other guys of similar ability.”
Seils said this year he wants to not only improve his record and his team’s record — he wants to assume a leadership role.
“ This year I just want to focus on being more of a vocal leader, as someone who’s one of one of the older, more experienced people on the roster, so it is definitely going to be my job to set the tone and determine what kind of team we want to be this year.” Seils said.
With a tough schedule this year, which includes trips to Miami and Hawaii, matchups with teams that should be ranked in the top 25 and of course the always competitive CAA conference schedule, Seils’ will be called upon to set the tone on and off the field.
“I expect Josh to continue to take on more of a leadership role, as he has already done, and help the pitching staff continue to improve and chase the goals we have set for ourselves,” Miller said. “I expect him to pick up where he left off last spring and give us a chance to win when we hand him the ball. He has a big challenge ahead of him, and I know he will embrace it and take it head on.
Added Seils: “We just have to believe in ourselves, we are a talented team and yeah we’ve had a couple rough years, but we are right there with the best of them.” Selis said about his team.