Thirteen years ago, Justin coached the first game at the new Clever High School baseball field.
For the opposing team.
“I was a new head coach at Marionville. We got killed.”
Five years later, Justin took over the head coaching position at Clever and hopes to stay here for a long time. He’s coached Chandler (Day #19), one player in this year’s College World Series finals, and a pitcher who earned a September call-up with the Astros.
“In a high school of 340 students, we’ve had 20 athletes go on to play college baseball in the last 8 years.”
I think those are incredible numbers.
Justin grew up in a baseball-loving family as multiple members of his family have been drafted and played baseball professionally. “Mom used to ban baseball talk at the kitchen table.”
Along with his younger brother, Justin and his dad used to keep statistics of the backyard wiffle ball games.
“Grass is finally growing over where the pitcher’s mound used to be.”
Justin grew up cheering on Tony Gwynn and loves how Mookie Betts plays the game. He’s a Royals fan, but he also likes the Cardinals and if the Dodgers win the World Series, his dad will get a ring.
“He’s an associate scout for them.”
I got to the field the same time as the rain. Justin had finished mowing the infield grass and was game for playing catch and coating shoes in grass clippings. It didn’t take too long for the ball to become slick, making sliders do anything but slide. Even in the rain, the wet gloves still popped and echoed.
“Baseball has been so good to me,” Justin said. “It’s fun watching players work during practice, even if they don’t like me at the time, and seeing how they are rewarded after they graduate.”
It was apparent that Justin’s field maintenance skills are top-notch as there were no puddles or standing water on the dirt. I felt bad that our first time connecting was in the middle of a cold rain, so we talked about a second game next month, hopefully on a sunny Saturday in mid-November.
Only 79 catch playing days left.