By: Hunter Ridge
Another exciting edition of Impact Program Preview is up, this time we traveled North to Virginia to sit down with Coach Joey Seal. Coach Seal is the Head Coach of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy located in Suffolk, Virginia. 2021 looks very bright for the Saints, find more about their program below..
What are the perks of coaching at such a prestigious school in Virginia?
Well, my family and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity that was given to us to lead some of the best young men in Virginia. Two things stand-out; the overwhelming support of the administration team and the immediate sense of family that is formed the moment you walk through the doors at NSA. I think both of those perks extend to the students, as well.
How has your club adapted to all the 2021 “protocols” with Covid-19?
I think we have adapted about as well as we could. We have a lot of young men who have been fortunate enough to play for some of the best organizations and coaches in the region outside of NSA. That has certainly been a benefit. We have also had guest Zoom speakers from guys like Ryan Chipka, who is a minor league coach for the Yankees. There has also been a large focus on getting stronger physically.
What has your message been to your club after the stoppage of play in 2020?
My message was pretty simple. We talk a lot about controlling what you can control and only focusing your energy on those things. This was certainly something outside of all of our control. We could not afford to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves during this long break. There were/are plenty of options available to continue to get better as a player and a person.
What are the strengths of your 2021 club?
I would definitely say that pitching depth should be something that is an advantage to us. We have a lot of really good arms who should continue to develop. We also have some really above average runners, that are not only fast, but very smart on the bases.
Who are you looking to lead the charge this year?
This is a difficult question on a number of levels! I think following a 365+ day layoff from being together competitively, we have A LOT of really hungry players — as do most programs! We have a solid group of seniors, and although it is not a large group, they all possess some great leadership skills. We also have a large group of young players who have already achieved some great things that are ready to make that jump into leadership roles.
Who are some of your younger players you are looking forward to watching grow?
We have a large group of young student-athletes who already possess some solid varsity time. Jordan Crosland & Riley Dicandido (sophomore Maryland commits), Christian James (sophomore UVA commit), Jackson Runyon (Fr. uncommitted), Ty Howlet (So. uncommitted), Jase Howell (sophomore uncommitted) are all young names to look for. Connor McGhee and Nate Martin will also be younger guys who will have a chance to contribute a lot. We also have a handful of other young players who possess some really advanced tools. One would be Preston Groves, who has run a 6.59 60yd dash as a freshman.
Looking at your schedule, what are some of the big games?
Given the way that our season ended abruptly in 2020, I think every single inning of every game is going to be big. No one ever expected a season to end the way it did. It has given all of us a new perspective of not taking any opportunity to be on the field for granted.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about Nansemond-Suffolk Academy Baseball?
I’m not sure it is unknown, but we have some of the best coaches I have ever worked with. Art Truesdel has been a mainstay with NSA Baseball for a long time now, working in various roles throughout the years. Allen Wetmore, who has helped me with the varsity team, but most recently has been the JV head coach, has been there for any and everything needed for our program. His tireless commitment to our program is paramount to our success. Matt Hamlet joined the staff last year to work with the hitters and run the offense. Matt brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience. Jonathan Cumpston, who is currently coaching at Thomas Nelson CC, was an assistant for two years. We have also been lucky to have Drew Suttmiller, who came from Norfolk State University with me 4 years ago. He really helped build this program into what it is right now. Drew is no longer on the staff at NSA but remains my sounding board and helps a ton behind the scenes when I’m stuck.
I also mentioned our administration support earlier, and certainly without them, we couldn’t even dream of being where we are right now. Debbie Russell is our head of school and has been our #1 fan. TW Johnson is our AD and has to hear all of my crazy visions. Both have been unbelievably supportive of me and our program. Chip Runyon has also been a huge asset to our program, leading some of the initiatives we have. We also have a great community of parents who will be at the field at the drop of a hat to help with anything I need.
The amount of gratitude I owe towards our support staff is infinite. But it is also the #1 reason why NSA is the perfect place for me to be.
Describe your typical “game day” as the Head Coach of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy?
This has probably been my biggest adjustment since coming from college baseball. Because we do not have lights, our games start at 4PM and our school does not let out until 3:05. I am a social studies teacher at NSA, so I teach right to the bell and haul tail out to the field. Luckily, we have a great grounds crew who does most of the game day prep on the field so we can jump right into our stretch. From there, we will go out to the cages to get some swings in. Usually we skip infield/outfield so that we can get some extra swings. Pre-game is such a blur every day. I change out of my school clothes and into my uniform then it seems like 30 seconds later, we are exchanging lineups with the umpire. You really have to have a great group of assistants and a great plan to make sure our student-athletes are prepared for 1st pitch.
Thank you Coach Seal for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about the 2021 Saints. We look forward to following your success. Stay tuned for more Impact Program Previews….