NEW YORK — Pardon Paul Sewald if it came across as petty; it wasn’t necessarily his intent, but rather, an emotional blend of pent-up frustration meeting jubilating validation of besting his former team.
Sewald played a huge part in the Mariners’ tight 2-1 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Friday, bailing Marco Gonzales out of a big jam with two on in the seventh, then retiring the meat of the Mets’ order in the eighth — objectively the game’s most critical outs.
“They gave up on me,” Sewald said of the Mets, who non-tendered him after the 2020 season. “And so, it’s pretty nice to get a little revenge today. Most importantly, we got a win. That’s the most important thing. But it was pretty nice.”
Returning to his old confines allowed for some nostalgia, good and bad. Sewald is still frustrated how things ended, but also thankful for the door it opened for him in Seattle, where he’s emerged as one of the better relievers in the American League. Yet had it not been for the Mariners’ analytics department unearthing better tendencies in his stuff, he was closer to calling it a career than many might think — particularly with the onset of becoming a first-time father to his daughter, Chloe.
“I went into last year thinking, ‘This might be my last Minor League season. I’ll try and see if I can get the fastball [velocity] up and see if that works, and if it doesn’t, kind of move on to Plan B,’” Sewald said. “I was more worried about being a dad than anything else. I just felt like I could brush off bad outings better that way, not thinking baseball is life and death. … It’s pretty fun, even when I pitch poorly, to come see Chloe at home.”
Sewald had already pondered the prospect of opening a baseball facility in his hometown of Las Vegas, a venue he envisions comparable to Driveline in suburban Seattle. Vegas is an amateur baseball hotbed — Sewald grew up near Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and Bryce Harper — and based on that demographic, he figured there would be demand.
It’s still something on his mind, but those ambitions have been pushed down the road, thanks to how well he’s pitched with the Mariners. After Friday’s game, Seattle has gone 56-16 in games that he pitches.
“We’ve talked about that for years, and always thought like post-baseball, that’s what I would do,” Sewald said. “But we’re going to put that off, obviously, for a little bit.”
New York might be his past and Vegas might be his future, but Seattle is Sewald’s present, and he and his wife, Molly, have embraced the community and its support.
After Chloe was born in August, the Sewalds were struck by how expensive parenthood is, and they couldn’t help but consider the financial burden for those less fortunate. So, earlier this month, he and Molly formed a partnership with Eastside Baby Corner — called Sewald’s Strikeouts 4 Kids — where they will donate $200 for each of his punchouts this season. Last year, he ranked second among MLB relievers with 104 strikeouts. Fans can chip in, too, for a chance to win tickets to a Mariners game.
“We’re super excited to give back to Seattle, which has given us so much already in just two years,” Sewald said. “So it’s pretty fun. We’re excited. Strikeouts help everybody. That’s kind of the point. It helps the team, it helps the kids, it helps me. It helps everybody.”
Sewald is doing his best to live in the moment. He’s a dad, a high-leverage reliever and he’s seen his career take off. But coming back to the place where it all began this weekend in New York proved to carry a little extra motivation, reflection and perspective to where he came from and where he’s headed.