Like father, Segui has passion for game

ALWAYS, HIS EYE'S ON BALL

May 25, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Diego Segui says it's in the blood, this passion his son, David, has for baseball, like a family heirloom passed down generation after generation.

Just as Diego once tromped miles over dusty roads in Cuba searching for a pickup game, David Segui has been consumed with finding his place in the baseball sun.

"Even now when he's home," Diego said from Kansas City, Kan., "David will carry a bat around with him all day. It's something in the blood. When he was a little baby, he'd walk around with a glove on his hand all the time. Now, he always carries a bat. He's always doing something. [But] that's good. That's where he makes his living."

It is a living Segui, 26, takes quite seriously. Asked one day last week how often he thinks about baseball, he said: "I think I've never gone more than 30 seconds without a baseball thought in my head."

Until this month, he had a lot of free time to think about the game, too. For most of his career with the Orioles, he has served as a defensive specialist at first base behind Randy Milligan and Glenn Davis, a part-time outfielder and a pinch hitter.

This month, Segui got his first -- and best -- opportunity to play every day in the majors. With Milligan transplanted in Cincinnati and Davis locked in a woeful hitting slump, Segui has started 13 of the past 15 games at first base, including a career-high 11 in a row at one point.

Three years after batting .336 at Triple-A Rochester, the switch-hitter still is waiting his turn in the Orioles' pecking order. The vigil was toughest a year ago, when he appeared in 44 games -- of his 115 total -- without getting an at-bat.

"It was frustrating because I don't like to sit and watch," he said. "I border on hyperactive. The thing that helped me was, we were winning."

Whether Segui's future as an everyday player arrives now, or never, is problematic. It depends on a number of unanswered questions: Will Davis recover his status as one of the game's premier power hitters? Will Cal Ripken move to first when Manny Alexander finally becomes the Orioles' shortstop? Or will Segui, a gifted defensive player, hit enough to convince the club he's its man?

One thing is clear: No one is going to outwork Segui. His work ethic is obsessive, his intensity level near legend in the organization.

"I like his intensity, his desire to make it and be a big contributor," said Doug Melvin, assistant general manager in charge of player personnel, who can cite chapter and verse of Segui's dedication.

Intense? In the minor leagues, Segui said he had to buy an extra batting helmet every year because he trashed at least one a season in a fit of anger. Two years ago, after a bad game in Baltimore, he threw a chair through a wall in his apartment, leaving a gaping hole. Earlier this year, walking up the tunnel to the clubhouse after a game, he unwittingly broke his favorite bat. He thought it was another bat and slammed it against the concrete floor.

Tradition of hard work

The work ethic, Segui says, came from his father, who had a 16-year pitching career in the majors and once won the American League ERA crown for the Oakland Athletics.

"He's the hardest worker I've ever seen," the son said of the father. "Everything he does, he goes all out. I'm the same way. If I'm going to do anything, I do it right or not at all."

Such as the time the elder Segui -- with the help of his three sons, Diego, David and Danny -- put up a fence at their sprawling Kansas City residence.

"Most people put in metal fence posts," David said. "Not him. He had to use railroad ties. We would dig the holes by hand with an iron bar and scoop out the dirt. It took an hour to do every hole. Even if there were was an easier way, that wouldn't be the way he'd do it."

The one thing the elder Segui wasn't able to pass on to his son, though, was the love of pitching. Wanting to be an everyday player, he resisted his father's pitching insights at every turn. "I'd drive him crazy," David said. "He'd take me in the backyard and try to teach me to pitch. And we'd argue all the time."

That was when Diego Segui was around to offer advice, anyway. He pitched until he was 47, retiring in 1985 after eight seasons in the Mexican League and 22 years in winter ball. He pitched a perfect game at age 45 in Mexico. "I love the game," he said. "I would have played for free."

Still, nothing could have prepared David Segui for the heartbreak that would precede his entry into professional baseball. He was undrafted out of high school in Kansas City and after two years at Kansas City Community College, where he hit for average and power.

After one season at Louisiana Tech, where he hit over .400 with 19 homers, he finally was drafted by the Orioles -- but not until the 18th round, or eight rounds behind current teammate Jack Voigt.

Things got worse before they got better, though. What followed was an improbable contract dispute when he was offered $2,000 to sign.

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