Clifton inks with Kentucky baseball
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
Trevor Clifton has one season left to leave batters shaking their heads and opposing pitchers wiping their brows at Heritage. The senior took care of the first of his baseball business for his final prep campaign Monday afternoon, signing his scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky.
“The coaches have stayed in touch with me pretty well, and I love the environment up there, going to their basketball games and stuff. Kentucky was my pick,” Clifton told The Daily Times while celebratory cake was passed around to the crowd in the Heritage gym and the senior adjusted his Kentucky baseball hat.
Clifton made his verbal commitment last year and has stuck with Kentucky despite other collegiate offers and the visits from pro scouts, which is as much a testament to the prowess of Gary Henderson’s coaching staff at UK as the fortitude of the highly regarded hurler.
Kentucky signed the staff — including recruiting coordinator Brad Bohannon and hitting coach Brian Green — to new five-year deals over the summer after Kentucky recorded a school-record 45-win season in 2012,
“Our recruiting is going pretty good. I guess it’s not going to hurt (to have the extensions),” Henderson said in July following the contract extension. “We do a great job of recruiting here. We don’t get them all; we get more than our share. I think any time that you can talk about improvements, whether it’s our team room, our locker room, our ballpark, any of it helps. (John Calipari’s) team helps. It all helps, but I don’t think we’ve been hampered, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t tell you.”
Clifton will join a Kentucky roster that, while it had a school-record nine players selected in the 2012 MLB Draft — the second most in the nation and the most in the SEC — also sent an NCAA-leading nine players to the prestigious Cape Cod League or on the USA Collegiate National Team.
Clifton is a part of another recruiting class expected to follow in the footsteps of a deep talent pool Henderson has attracted to UK following College Baseball ranked classes of No. 4 in 2008, No. 6 in 2009, No. 16 in 2010 and No. 11 for 2013.
The Heritage senior didn’t suddenly jump up to the high recruiting circles’ attention. It’s been a climb as gradual as the improvement in his game that have come from lots of extra work.
“There’s times I came over in the middle of the summer, and he’s over getting his running in during the middle of the summer heat. He throws hard because he works at it,” Heritage athletic director and baseball coach Robbie Bennett said. “As his career has gone, he’s gotten better because of that work ethic. It’s been fun to watch him grow up and mature. I’ve been watching him since he was 8 or 9 years old get better and better every year.”
Clifton was glad to get this part out of the way so he can focus on the season ahead.
“I can focus on my senior season a lot more now that this is over. We’re developing better and right now the seniors are holding some practices to work with the younger players and sort of establish the leadership for the season,” Clifton said. “I run every night and I do mechanical work, but mostly it’s running hills and stuff to stay in shape.”
The only thing thing that might get in Clifton’s way is how the pro scouts evaluate his last year and how quickly his name is called in the draft this summer.
“I’m just taking it step by step. I have a great college to go, but if the draft worked out I have to consider where I wanted to go,” said Clifton who has been watched by the Pirates, Blue Jays, Brewers, Devil Rays, Indians and Yankees already. “I was really excited the first time a scout came, but now it’s kind of wearing down, and I’m getting used to it.”