Clayton has a long history with AHP, even before AHP. He started working with Taylor Burns and Ethan Elias when he was 11 years old, way back in the early Prospects Academy days at Bellerose High School and Legion Field in St. Albert, in 2012. He was a standout player for Sherwood Park growing up, before playing for two years at Cloud County CC. He's now in his Senior season at Stephen F. Austin University, in Texas. Clayton has been a fixture at AHP over Christmas breaks and in the summers over the past few years.
1. Hi Clay, you've have a great college career for Cloud County CC and SFA. You've really done a great job of continuing to get better year oveer year. What are some of the biggest things that have helped allow you to do that?
I think trust plays a huge factor in your development as a baseball player. You need to trust the process and realize that it is not always going to go your way. You also need to trust those who are trying to help you. Your coaches can only say so much but if you don’t make changes based on what they see then you are doing yourself a disservice.
2. Last year you started off the year pretty slow, then halfway through you took a turn for the better and haven't looked back. You carried that second-half success into a tremendous season with the Edmonton Riverhawks, and have put together a phenomenal season this year. Was there a significant change you made mid-season or was it just a result of trusting the process and capitalizing on opportunities?
I think that people always say how much failure is a big part of the game but a lot of players still don’t understand that. There is such a large mental block when it comes to frustration and failure in this game and whether many players realize it or not their biggest downfall comes from an inability to deal with failure. I still get frustrated from time to time just as anybody would, however, I have seen a direct correlation between improving how I deal with failure and the mental side of the game and my performance. Sure there have been some swing changes and a few tweaks but the biggest part is realizing that things are not always going to go your way and that’s just the nature of the sport. You need to dive deeper into the process rather than the result. Getting upset over a 100mph line drive right to an outfielder doesn’t do anyone any good especially when there are four more at-bats to have in a game. I switched the mentality in a situation like that from being frustrated about it to seeing it as “my swing is dialled in, these guys are going to have a rough game against me”.I think that back when I was at the academy and Taylor did mental Mondays with the team I never fully took advantage or realized how important that was until I was more mature as a player.
3. Ethan Elias coached you when you were just a young guy in the Futures and Junior Prospects. Was it pretty cool having him coach you last summer with the Edmonton Riverhawks after all these years?
I find it pretty rare in a game like this especially when you are bouncing around teams to have a solid connection with one coach for 10+ years of my career and that’s what Ethan has been to me. I think that having a coach that has been there pretty much my whole career is extremely valuable because he’s seen where I have come from and how I have grown and matured as a player and I think that his advice whether it be defensively or hitting wise will always hold weight with me. Ethan is a guy that has allowed me to come to his team practices to get some extra swings in the summer so I’ll be forever grateful to have a relationship like that with a coach for such a long period of time.
4. You've been trained by Taylor now for probably close to a decade, even before AHP started up. What can you say about those early days as well as the transformation of AHP?
My training with Taylor started around the time I was 10-12 years old so to say he’s been a large part of my development would be an understatement. He’s always been the guy to care about his athletes on and off the field and that’s one thing that has never changed no matter how large the AHP brand gets. Speaking on that, it is impressive to watch this program continue to grow each year. It started in the cramped gym of Bellerose High School where we would do sprints down the hallways and now it has turned into this massive fieldhouse. Growth like that can only come from hard work and a dedication to providing his athletes with the best tools to succeed.
5. You've been hitting with AHP, with Connor, during your Christmas breaks and summers at home for a few years now. How have they helped you get ready for your seasons?
I think the best thing about being to hit at AHP during Christmas breaks is how open-minded Connor is to different players and their needs. Not every player is the same, not every swing is the same, and different college programs have different hitting philosophies so to be able to go to a place where they adapt to what you need is unlike any other hitting program out there. Also, it is never a coach telling you what to change or how to do something its always a conversation that you as the player have a say in which is refreshing to see rather than many of these other programs with their my way or the highway approach to hitting. Looking at my season-to-season performances its no doubt that the work I have done at AHP hitting wise has translated onto the field.
6. Lastly, if you were talking to a 16 year old player and his parents, why should they choose the Academy?
The numbers speak for themselves. If you are an athlete that wants to play at the next level and perform to the best of your ability, AHP is the place to be. They rival any academy in Canada in placing athletes in competitive universities. The coaching staff and facilities at AHP are almost unmatched. Many players including myself have come into the academy and come out a significantly better athlete and person