Sean Labsan: Baseball’s dual threat

The junior pitcher and designated hitter is the only player in Conference USA with two wins and two home runs.


Junior Sean Labsan has found success both at the plate and on the mound this season. Ryan Lynch | Multimedia Editor

Brendan Feeney, Sports Editor


erhaps no game defines Sean Labsan better than Florida Atlantic’s March 8 meeting with St. Joseph’s University.

The junior pitcher picked up his first victory of the year in a 1-0 win over the Hawks. He allowed one hit.

Simultaneously listed as the designated hitter, Labsan accounted for the only run of the game when he struck a solo home run over the right-field fence in the second inning.

That home run was the first of five on the season for him, and he has managed to pick up four more victories as well. He holds a record of 5-1 and his 1.32 ERA would be the best in the conference, but he is one inning away from officially qualifying for the statistic — to be qualified, a pitcher must average one inning pitched per game played. Labsan has thrown 41 innings, one less than the team’s 42 games played.

The Sarasota, Florida, native is one of seven Conference USA players to record a victory on the mound and register a hit at the plate this season. He is the only one to have at least two wins and two home runs.

No other player has reached three of either category.

Assistant coach Greg Mamula is used to watching players both pitch and hit, due to his coaching days at Division II West Chester University, but said it’s rare at this level of Division I college baseball.

“He’s successful at it because of his personality,” Mamula said. “He has a mild-mannered, even-tempered type of disposition about him, that helps him. He doesn’t get too high or too low about anything.”

Lasban’s freshman teammate, catcher and utility infielder Tyler Frank, described the junior pitcher as “quietly intense.”

“He won’t say much but he’s always in the zone,” Frank said. “He always goes about his business in the same way. Whether it’s doing good on the mound, good at the plate, he’s just always the same mindset, which is a great thing to have in baseball.”

From licking his finger to wiping it on his pants, to adjusting his shirt and hat before throwing each pitch, to putting his batting gloves on the same way every time and doing the same thing in the on-deck circle, Labsan is all about routine.

“I’m a big routine guy on and off the field,” Labsan said. “I like to do things the same way sometimes. As long as I can repeat everything then I’ll keep getting the results I want.”

It has become routine for Labsan to focus on one aspect of his game, pitching or hitting, during one practice and make the other up. It has become routine for him to meet with head coach John McCormack prior to each practice to figure out which position will garner most of his focus. And it has become routine for the junior to come early or stay late to make up for the lost time of the other position.

The goal for a player to pitch and hit isn’t new for McCormack. According to him, multiple players have wanted to do both, but it has been a lot easier said than done.

“They don’t want to put the extra work in, but there’s going to be extra work, because if you’re going to be successful you got to put in almost two practices,” McCormack said, noting that a player can’t exceed the 20-hour weekly limit set forth by the NCAA.

“The thing about Sean,” he continued, “is he’s a hard worker and he wants to be successful at both [positions] so he doesn’t mind if he has to come 15-20 minutes early or stay 15-20 minutes late to get his work in … he works hard at it, he deserves the success he’s having.”

Labsan’s continuing work ethic has led to more success each year he’s played. The junior’s batting average has climbed from .214 in his freshman campaign, to .263 last year to his .279 average this season.

His pitching ERA has significantly improved from his freshman year as well, going from 5.03, to 3.61 to his current 1.32.

The southpaw’s 1.32 ERA will no doubt catch the attention of MLB scouts, especially since they already know his name. Labsan is three years removed from Riverview High School, where he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB Draft.

Labsan said he always wanted to be a professional baseball player which made his decision to come to FAU difficult, but he ultimately felt that he needed to continue his education.

“It took about five weeks,” McCormack remembered. “It’s always an honor to be drafted. He was offered some money and people don’t understand, how this works is the Sean Lasban’s of the world that get drafted, when they come to college they still have to pay. So it’s hard to ask kids to turn down $100,000, $115,000, $200,000 and then turn around and say ‘by the way you still have to pay to go to school.’”

Since Labsan chose to forgo the money and continue his education, he had to wait at least three more years to declare for the MLB Draft, due to the draft’s rules. Those three years have now passed and the current question in doubt is whether he will sign his respective contract following the 2016 MLB Draft, if drafted, or wait until 2017.

McCormack believes his pitcher is worthy of being drafted this year, but said he’s not sure what to expect, as Labsan needed surgery for a torn labrum this past June.

“Sometimes with guys coming off surgery, the pro guys are a little standoffish because of injuries,” he said. “We’ll get a better feel for that in the next month as he continues to progress, we’ll certainly see what happens. Whatever he wants to do, I’m behind him 100 percent … The remarkable thing is how quickly he’s come back from the surgery and we attribute that to all that hard work he’s put in.”

All stats as of Tuesday, May 3.

Brendan Feeney is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @feeney42.