Have you ever had a moment in your life when you realized the world is much smaller than you think it is?
Maybe you’re on vacation in Florida and you see someone at a shopping center that you know from back home.
Or, perhaps, one of your close friends from your hometown happens to go on to play Major League Baseball, and eventually becomes a coach who recruits your son years later.
The latter is the case for Nate Klaiber, a Wheelersburg native and graduate of Wheelersburg High School. Nate played football for the Pirates and graduated in 1992. He went on to play football at Miami of Ohio, and even went to the football combine in Atlanta in May of 1997, but a knee injury ultimately prevented Nate’s career from going to the professional level.
Nate’s son Seth is entering his senior season at Stephen T. Badin High School in Hamilton, where he has committed to play baseball at Xavier upon graduating, and has aspirations of reaching the professional level on the baseball diamond instead of the gridiron.
Prior to committing to Xavier, Seth was being recruited by several schools and coaches across the country, but one of those coaches stands out: Josh Newman.
Newman, who was a 2000 graduate of Wheelersburg and an excellent pitcher, played college baseball at Ohio State before spending some time in the MLB. Newman returned to his alma mater in 2010 as a graduate assistant.
Climbing up the coaching ranks, Newman went to Marshall at the conclusion of the 2013 season as the new Thundering Herd pitching coach. After spending four seasons in Huntington, Newman was named to the same position at Penn State this July.
While still coaching at Marshall, Newman recruited Seth heavily, and continued to recruit Seth after going to Penn State. Chuck McKinney, Seth’s pitching coach at Stephen T. Badin High School, recalls interacting with Newman early in Seth’s career.
“When Josh went to Marshall and Seth was a freshman, I told Josh about him and sent some video,” McKinney said. “When he saw the name [Klaiber], he said “Do you know where his parents are from? What’s his dad’s name?” and I said “Nate Klaiber.” He said “Wow my brother went to school with him”.”
Newman played football at Wheelersburg with Nate’s brother Gabe Klaiber.
McKinney was eager to let Nate know about what happened. “I talked to Nate and said, “Are you from the Wheelersburg area?” and Nate said that he was, so that kind of clicked right there,” McKinney said.
Newman and McKinney became acquainted when Newman was coaching at Ohio State. McKinney’s son Brett played for Newman with the Buckeyes, and now plays in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organization.
Even though Seth committed to play for Xavier, he still has a ton of admiration for Newman. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Newman, because his recruiting eye has been on me for years now,” Seth said. “Knowing that Coach Newman was a family friend, he had a good place in my standings.”
Seth has the talent to succeed as a baseball player, and has received plenty of guidance from his family. His cousin, Bill Klaiber, pitched at Ironton from 1987-1990, and went on to pitch for West Virginia State in college.
Bill knew that Seth could become a great player, even at a young age. “When you talk to him about the game and about the fundamentals, you can tell he just gets it,” Bill said. “That’s the thing with kids these days. A lot of them have the ability and the raw skills, it just doesn’t click mentally for them.”
The influences within the family have been huge for Seth’s development and confidence over the years.
“Knowing that you have a family member that was a Division I college pitcher, it already kind of puts some pressure on you to deliver,” Seth said about his cousin Bill. “It’s great having that blood run in your family knowing that if I ever did need some experience from a family member, that I would have some right there.”
The Klaiber family has not only helped Seth along the way, but have instilled some values within Seth to try and make him not only a great baseball player, but a great person as well.
Talking with Seth’s coaches, many of them were quick to point out the influence that Seth’s family has had on him over the years. Seth’s high school coach Brion Treadway is one of those coaches.
“You can tell he comes from a good family in how he approaches life,” Treadway said. “I think he was raised the right way with how to treat people with respect and how to work hard. I’ve gotten to know his family pretty well over the last three and a half years and have nothing but great things to say about them.”
Seth’s summer league pitching coach Scott Wilson of the Cincinnati Aces said much of the same. “His family are dedicated, quality people,” Wilson said. “He literally exemplifies the kind of family that care about other people, care about putting their hard day’s work and they’re a great family and he represents the whole family well.”
Over the last three summers, Seth has pitched for the Cincinnati Aces and has gotten to play against some of the toughest competition in the Midwest United States. “Summer baseball, I would say, is kind of his release,” Aces head coach Bill Sackenheim said. “It’s where he can go and have fun but at the same time hone his skills.”
Sackenheim recalled a moment where Seth took a big step in the progression of his career: “About two years ago, we were playing in a tournament in Indianapolis against a very good team and Seth did not have his best stuff. He was struggling, and it was kind of a dreary, cool day and it was an early game. I remember one of the other coaches when the game was over said “I’m really proud of Seth. He really pushed himself beyond where I thought he would be.” It was a good day for his development because he realized he’s not always going to have his best stuff, but the crazy thing is even his second best stuff wins games.”
It was for the Aces where Seth faced opponents from cities like Columbus, Lexington, Ky. and St. Louis, Mo. His coach says that it was against these teams that Seth realized his potential.
“He would go out and have dominating appearances against some of the best hitters in the Midwest,” Sackenheim said. “Guys who have signed and are playing Division I college baseball, and a lot of guys who have gone in the draft and play in AAA baseball now.”
Coach Treadway knew Seth was destined for greatness his sophomore year of high school. “At the end of [Seth’s sophomore] year, we played Centerville, which is a Division I school and they’re really good,” Treadway recounted to the Daily Times. “They had a center fielder that was going to Wright State, and he just blew his doors off with three straight fastballs. I knew after that outing that Seth was going to be something very special.”
Last season as a junior, Seth posted ridiculous statistics for his team. He finished 4-0 on the mound, combined with a 0.15 ERA. He also had 55 strikeouts in 46 innings, and allowed only one earned run all season. His fastball was clock at 93 miles per hour.
It is not uncommon for Ohio to produce special athletes, but it is rare for those special athletes to possess the dedication and the motivation of Seth Klaiber. Wilson remembers challenging Seth, only to be blown away by his response.
“We talked over the last 12 to 18 months about him developing his changeup as a pitcher and having [another] pitch that he can throw for strikes at any time in the count,” Wilson said. “He really took it to heart. When he gets obsessed with developing something, he literally will just work at it, work at it, and work at it. He’s always striving for perfection.”
The work ethic that Seth brings to the table is practically unmatched among his peers. Seth said that his Dad Nate played a huge part in coaching him up mentally.
“My Dad instilled it in me from an early age,” Seth said. “At first I didn’t take the bait, but there’s always going to be someone that’s better than you. Hunter Greene is my age and he’s throwing 102 MPH. Now I know that’s God given, but I can do just as much work as him. I can outwork him, that’s my stand point on everything.”
Seth isn’t kidding about that, either.
His coaches confirmed that there are no off days in the life of Seth Klaiber. “Seven days a week, in the gym,” Wilson said. “Running on his off days, running after games. He does that all on his own, he doesn’t have to be told.”
Sackenheim even said that Seth completed his workouts on Christmas Day last year. He remembers being surprised by Seth’s presence one day when he walked into his house.
“Seth’s been at my house probably as much as he’s been at his own home,” Sackenheim said. “I came home one day and Seth was on the treadmill at my house and nobody was there. He was there on his own working out because he couldn’t get into the gym at the high school.”
The mentality that Seth brings to the table is well beyond his years. “There will always be someone better than me, but nobody will have my work ethic,” Seth said. “I feel like that has gotten me places that some people haven’t gotten to yet because I do refuse to lose.”
For his coaches, Seth is like a dream come true as an athlete. “Seth just has that drive to get better every day and that’s something that you can’t teach,” McKinney said. “You can teach mechanics, and you can teach pitches, and you can teach hitting techniques, but you can’t teach drive.”
It doesn’t stop there for Seth, however. Seth also excels off the field, with a 4.1 weighted GPA. He was even selected to be the leader of a religious retreat for his school, which impressed his high school coach.
“I think that speaks volumes for the faculty’s respect for Seth as a person,” Treadway said. “His classmates look up to him, and from a baseball perspective acknowledge that he’s got a real special ability.”
While he is no doubt talented now, one coach thinks he can get even better after high school when he doesn’t have outside limitations.
“When he gets to the next level and is not in high school and he doesn’t have girlfriends bothering him, and he doesn’t have time constraints other than just baseball, I think his potential is exponential,” Sackenheim said.
Heading in to his senior season at Stephen T. Badin High School, it looks like the sky is certainly the limit for Seth Klaiber.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 or on Twitter @BSpicerPDT