Seth Lancaster gathered at his college house earlier this month with his girlfriend and some teammates as they scoured their cellphones hoping to see Lancaster's name come across as a selection in the MLB Draft. And when he did — by the Phillies in the eight round — "everyone started jumping up and down like everyone does," Lancaster said.
But that moment — the one Lancaster said is something he'll never forget — likely never felt more unimaginable than it did a year earlier, when Lancaster struggled through his junior season at Coastal Carolina with a debilitating eye problem. He batted just .250 as a junior in 2017 with a .368 on-base percentage, a steep decline from his performance a year earlier. Lancaster's left eye was almost useless. He thought he contracted pink eye in March but the eye drops prescribed by a doctor only made the condition worse.
"It all went to hell," said Lancaster, a 21-year-old infielder who entered the Phillies minor-league system this week at short-season Class-A Williamsport. "Every time I would put my contacts on, it would flare up really bad. I tried some of those ugly sport glasses but by that time it was so messed up that my vision went. My right eye was normal I could see. I think it was 20/15 vision. My left eye just got worse and worse."
One of Lancaster's college coaches asked him after the season how much he thought his eyes had affected him. The South Carolina native said he hates to make excuses, but he told the coach "tremendously." The team arranged for Lancaster to see a different doctor, who said Lancaster did not have pink eye. He instead had a viral infection in his cornea. The doctor explained it to Lancaster as "having the flu in your eye."
The infection required Lasik surgery, which Lancaster had over the summer. He went home, took a four-hour nap, and woke up with perfect vision.
"I never realized how bad my eyes were until that first batting-practice session and especially the first time I faced live pitching," Lancaster said. "I was seeing as good as I did two years ago. It was exciting. I remember telling coaches that I was taking change-ups because during my struggle, I was swinging at every change-up they threw me, it didn't matter where it was. Everything was back to normal."
His eye healed, Lancaster batted .305 as a senior with a .454 on-base percentage. He led the Sun Belt Conference in homers (20), walks (63), total bases (146) and slugging percentage (.646). Lancaster was again on MLB radars. He talked to a few teams before the draft and was pretty certain he would be drafted. His baseball career — which looking bleak a year earlier — would continue thanks to surgery.
"God works in funny ways," Lancaster said. "This is just another funny story that a normal 21 year old kid has to tell somebody. I think Lasik surgery was probably one of the most important things to happen to my baseball career. It's funny how he works and I'm going to continue to see how he works and whatever he has my in future, I'm excited to find out."