Countless Cincinnati-area baseball players grow up dreaming of playing for the Cincinnati Reds.
Clermont Northeastern High School 2010 graduate Seth Varner is one step closer to realizing that dream.
After playing four years for Miami University, Varner was selected by the Reds in the 10th round of the 2014 draft. He began this season playing for the Dayton Dragons. On June 29, he was promoted to the Daytona Tortugas. The lefthanded pitcher excelled in his 14 starts for Dayton, fulfilling his own prophecy as a high schooler.
“I remember going to Dragons games with my teammates in high school and thinking that I could pitch at that level in a couple years,” said Varner. “This is definitely a dream come true.”
The 2010 SBAAC player of the year has stayed close to his CNE roots. He spent this past fall and winter interning for his high school coach and athletic director Mike Kirk. Since graduating from CNE, Varner has played a part in the Rockets baseball program by working with younger players.
“Seth always carried himself as a professional on and off the baseball field,” said Kirk. “He was a great multi-sport athlete as well as a great student. It is great to see him having success. He has worked hard and deserves it.”
As a professional, Varner has struck out 112 batters while walking just 15. He pitched 30.1 innings before allowing a walk to start the 2015 season. He posted a ridiculous 15.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 14 starts for Dayton. For comparison, Max Scherzer currently leads Major League Baseball with a 9.93 ratio. After walking two and striking out two in his Daytona debut, Varner’s ratio is at 11.29, good for ninth-best in all of minor league baseball this season through July 4.
“I’ve been staying consistent with my delivery,” said Varner. “I attack early with fastballs and try to get ahead of hitters early.”
Since pitching for the Rockets, Varner has improved his changeup and significantly improved his curveball. He added a cutter to his arsenal during his senior season at Miami. The 2014 MAC pitcher of the year understands that his fastball is not overpowering, but he has increased his velocity and has been able to consistently locate the strike zone.
“I’ve found a little bit of velo, which is the result of getting stronger and staying healthy,” he said.
The biggest adjustment to minor league baseball has been the preparation. Varner has to maintain his health while being on the road, with fewer days to prepare between starts.
“I’m trying to eat healthy and take care of my body to deal with the grind,” he said. “You have to be open to everything.”
His family and former coaches were able to catch many of his 14 starts for the Dragons. Now that he has been promoted to Daytona, they will have track Varner’s progress from a greater distance. The next step is a promotion to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, a move which is not expected this season. Then again, Varner exceeded his own preseason expectations by earning a midseason call-up in 2015.
Varner lost his Tortugas debut, but still boasts a 3.00 ERA and 1.155 WHIP. While he is still a few years away, he may one day realize that lifelong dream of pitching for his beloved Reds. For now, Varner continues to set an example for all the local high school players who share that same goal.
“Seth has been a role model for our current and future athletes,” Kirk said. “Seth is great baseball player and an even better person in the way that he treats people and goes out of his way to help others.”