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PASSION PERSONIFIED: Baseball coach Seagroves teaches 'discipline, responsibility and loyalty'


The sun dips over the tree line and casts a pink glow on the horizon as Coach Richard Seagroves pushes a shopping cart of his coaching essentials from one ballfield to another. In his cart, there are muddy bases, a bucket of baseballs, a worn-out tennis racket and a small wooden bat wound with tape.

There’s a sliver of moon peeking high above his head. The moment seems surreal. He’s wearing a floppy bucket hat, shorts and a sleeveless muscle shirt. It’s an outfit his players see every day. His calf muscles strain and protrude like an ox plowing the field as he pushes the cart through the outfield grass. 

Seagroves has just finished leading a practice for his 12U travel baseball team on the lower ballfield of Max Abbott Middle School. Now he’s heading to the upper field, where his 14U team is tossing baseballs around, warming up their arms and awaiting his arrival. 

They’re all dressed in full uniform, a combination of teal and purple that Seagroves has instructed his team to wear for the day. He believes in his branding and insists on his players wearing the proper baseball attire. If they don’t, they face discipline for not following instructions. He believes in unity and following the simplest of directions as it relates to coaching and the small aspects of the game and life.

He spots one player wearing an MLB baseball jersey instead of his team jersey. 

“Drop and give me 10 push-ups for not wearing the right jersey,” Seagroves says. “Give me 5 more for it being a Mets jersey.”

Someone has thought about the impending darkness.

“Thank you to whoever turned on the lights,” he says. “I owe you a cheeseburger.”

Seagroves stands behind home plate and takes the bat in his hands. The players take their positions in the infield and Seagroves gives them instructions on what to do. He hits a ground ball and watches his players throw the ball around the horn and back to the catcher at home. 

“Faster! Come on guys, you ain’t got time to read the label!” Seagroves barks. 

He hits the ball again and the infielders zip the ball to each other as if passing a lightning bolt. The ball quickly comes back home to the catcher.

“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Seagroves asks.

All about Seagroves 

Seagroves was born in Fayetteville and graduated from Pine Forest High School in 1985. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health from Methodist University (then Methodist College) and a master’s degree in education from Fayetteville State University.

While at Methodist, Seagroves played for legendary MU baseball coach Tom Austin.   

“I tell everyone I was the scorekeeper,” Seagroves says jokingly. 

Seagroves doesn’t like to talk about himself, or his accomplishments. When his players win awards, he often hands the prizes to the assistant coaches to hand out for fear of taking any glory from his team. Capturing Seagroves in a photo is as difficult as getting him to talk about himself. He’s better at evading the camera than Bigfoot. 

Seagroves wasn’t MU’s scorekeeper. The truth is, he was a pitcher and a member of the most successful graduation class Austin has coached to date. It’s the first time MU ranked number one in the country and the team achieved the status twice during those four years. The team finished with 154 wins, 32 losses and tied just twice. Seagroves, still one of MU's top five best career pitchers, pitched 313 innings and finished his career with 25 wins, 7 losses, 3 saves and a 2.63 ERA. 

He was outstanding,” Austin says. “A real bulldog on the mound and didn’t want to give up the ball. He was a student of the game and really worked hard. He was always ready to pitch. In 1988, he was an All American and the team’s Most Valuable pitcher. He was a left-hander that really commanded the strike zone. He could probably get runners out now.”  

Austin’s coaching and mentorship lives within Seagroves, and he in turn passes it on to his own players and children.  

“I’m blessed and thankful I had a very good coach and leader who taught us how to be a good person and what our responsibilities are both as a baseball player and in the game of life,” Seagroves says. “I learned many things off the field from him as well.”

Seagroves was also an associate scout in the Fayetteville area for the MLB’s Kansas City Royals from 1997-1999.

In 1999, it was Seagroves who first introduced travel baseball to Cumberland County with the team Carolina Crushers. Attorney Bruce Armstrong created the team and Seagroves coached them. Later, in Spring Lake, he led the travel team Diamond Dreams. Seagroves’s Crushers team produced several minor league players.

Today, travel baseball is popular in Fayetteville and the surrounding regions with a circuit that reaches throughout the state.

For the love and passion of the game

On a typical day during baseball season, Seagroves teaches physical education and exceptional children’s classes at College Lakes Elementary School. After teaching a full course load, he travels to Max Abbott Middle School to direct the school’s baseball operations. Seagroves prepares his baseball team to go against some of the county's toughest competitors like Mac Williams, Gray’s Creek, Hope Mills and Pine Forest middle schools.

Immediately after Max Abbott’s daily practice and the two baseball games per week, Seagroves either runs two travel ball team practices on the field, or heads to his training facility, The Puzzle, on McPherson Church Road from 4 to 9 p.m. There he leads indoor practices for travel ball teams whose ages range from 7 to 17. Somehow, Seagroves manages to find the time to teach private hitting and pitching lessons. 

Seagroves has three sons. 

“Jonathan is my oldest and is doing quite well serving in the military,” Seagroves says. His other two sons play baseball. Cameron, a sophomore at Methodist University plays baseball for Austin and the Monarchs, and Seagroves’s youngest son Ryan is a senior at Terry Sanford and plays multiple positions for the Bulldog baseball team. 

“Both are doing quite well on the field and the classroom,” Seagroves says proudly.

Though Seagroves stays busy, he always makes time to see his sons play when he can, sometimes even turning over his coaching duties to his assistant coaches so he can watch his sons’ games. 

Seagroves’s passion for baseball and passing on his knowledge of the game fuel his battery. Because of his love for the sport and what he does, Seagroves feels none of it is work. However, he says he couldn’t do any of it were it not for his friend and business partner Laurie Morrison. 

“She makes it all happen, day in and day out,” he says.

Laurie Morrison, the backbone of The Puzzle 

Morrison was born in the little town of Burgaw, North Carolina — but she says she just tells everyone she’s from Wilmington because no one has heard of Burgaw. A licensed teacher, Morrison came to Fayetteville for a teaching job. She has two sons, Brayden and Bailey, who are the same ages as Seagroves’ sons.

“I met Seagroves because our children played baseball when they were little,” Morrison says. “He coached my kids for baseball lessons at the training facility Diamond Sports Training Center off Raeford Road, which was owned by our friends. When they were ready to sell, they asked if we were interested in running it.”

Seagroves and Morrison became business partners and ran the facility, but quickly saw they needed more room. 

The Puzzle: ‘Where we put all the pieces together’

Early in 2020, Seagroves and Morrison turned the old flea market building on McPherson Church Road into a baseball training facility. The Puzzle is roughly 4,700 square feet of training space. 

“We call it that [The Puzzle] because that’s where we put all the pieces together,” Seagroves says.

The Puzzle has weight training, several batting cages and versatile spaces that can be used for almost anything, from fielding baseballs to cardio training. The facility also offers space for homeschoolers to get their qualifications for physical education.

“We are an athlete facility home to travel baseball and softball. We have weightlifting, dance classes, conditioning classes and offer private lessons for baseball and softball,” Seagroves says. 

Seagroves and Morrison opened The Puzzle on March 1, just as Covid-19 hit the state in full force. 

“After one week we were shut down,” Morrison says. “I wrote letters to the governor so we could do small groups outside. We got the thumbs up. That first year was a real struggle, but we eventually got to move inside if we were masked.”  

Seagroves runs the baseball operations, and Morrison works full time at the facility doing administration work, tutoring students and running dance fitness classes.

Seagroves says without Morrison everything that is done at The Puzzle couldn’t be done.

“I refer to her as the boss,” Seagroves says. “She’s amazing at what she does and how organized she is.” 

Team Ghost 

The Puzzle is also home to Seagroves’s travel baseball team, “Team Ghost.” Seagroves says while doing research for a team name, he found a now-defunct minor league baseball team that was named Casper Ghost in Casper, Wyoming. He liked the name. 

“Team Ghost naturally happened. Their logo was Casper, but we didn’t want a friendly-looking ghost. We took and ran with it,” Seagroves says. 

Seagroves and Morrison chose the team colors of teal, purple and white to stand out from  the standard team colors of blue, orange and red.

“We wanted something the kids would enjoy and like,” Seagroves says.

According to Seagroves, the main goal of his travel ball team is to train his players to make their high school or college team. 

“The problem is,” Seagroves says, “most people are there to win, win, win. They are there just to win and want results. That’s not what we do.” 

Seagroves and Morrison said it’s about the complete development of the player and they stay focused on the big picture. 

“Our job is to develop you to be prepared for high school level baseball or beyond, but we also want to develop you as an individual. That's our approach,”  Seagroves says.“We provide an opportunity for them to not only be told how to play this wonderful game of baseball, but taught discipline, responsibility and loyalty.”

When she can, Morrison travels to the team’s games to support the players and let them know she cares.

“The main thing for us is relationships. I spend a lot of time building relationships,” Morrison says. “People enjoy being around people who care about them. It's important for the kids to know we want to see them develop, but we also care about them.”

When you walk into The Puzzle, you’ll notice the teal and purple walls are covered in awards and banners from past games and tournaments. You’ll see old photos of MLB players to remind the current players of the ones who have gone before them. 

You might see a father teaching his son or daughter in the batting cages, or players flipping a large tire to work on their conditioning. You might catch Seagroves using his old tennis racket to hit ground balls to his team or teaching them how to bunt. 

You’ll most definitely find people who know life is much more than about winning a game. It’s about relationships, passion, and the joy of the game itself and doing life together. 

“We're more than a facility. We’re good at what we do and we’re passionate about what we do,” Seagroves says. “I don’t think you’ll find a better place in not only this county, or surrounding counties, that does what we do better.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of one of Laurie Morrison's sons as Ryan Morrison. His name is Bailey Morrison. CityView Today apologizes for this error.

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