It started out like most other days on August 7 for Michael Clevinger. The former fourth-round draft pick from Seminole Community College—by way of The Citadel—was at the ballpark going about his business when the news came.
“I actually thought I was in trouble at first,” Clevinger said. “I was doing my routine—I came in a couple hours before the game to do my lifting—then my pitching coach pulled me out and told me and said, ‘We have to talk.’”
As he unknowingly entered what would be a new phase in his professional career, Clevinger then was approached by a member of the front office from his parent club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Director of Player Personnel Bobby Scales then clarified things for the right-hander.
“[He] told me that the Indians are trying to win in the future and we are trying to win now, so we are sorry we had to do this but it is a good opportunity for you,” Clevinger said. “So then he told me I was traded to the Indians.”
Arriving in Zebulon to begin his journey with the Tribe for the Carolina Mudcats, Clevinger did have some familiar faces on his new team. As for the parent club, the 23-year old did not have much knowledge of what he was getting into, but was excited to learn.
“I went to school with Todd Hankins and I played in Cape Cod with Torsten (Boss) and (Logan) Vick, so I knew a few guys here but that is about it,” Clevinger said. “I actually did not know much at all [about the Indians]. You cannot be disappointed though—you are going to someone who wants you. I was still really excited and I have something to prove because someone wants me.”
An Atlanta Braves fan growing up (his favorite player was Chipper Jones), Clevinger got started in baseball right away. He was a typical kid in that he played multiple sports and excelled at most.
In high school it became clear that his future was in baseball. He still played multiple sports through his sophomore year but afterwards Clevinger was given a speech that altered his playing career and gave him focus.
“I loved playing all sports,” Clevinger recalled. “I just played when I was little and I picked up a ball and I kind of took to it. I played every single sport, mainly basketball and baseball. I also played some soccer. The basketball coach and the baseball coach sat me down after my junior year of high school and told me that I was going to have to stay on the baseball field because they couldn’t risk me getting hurt.”
The focus on baseball helped lead the righty to being selected in the fourth round (135th overall) of the First Year Player Draft by the Angels in 2011. Interestingly, Clevinger almost did not put his name to paper in time to join the Los Angeles organization.
“It was definitely exciting to get drafted,” Clevinger said. “It was kind of a surreal experience that didn’t really kick in until I got my plane ticket. I actually did not sign right away. I got drafted and went and played a season in Cape Cod while I was negotiating and then I signed on the day of the deadline. I was worried a little bit but I knew I wanted to play pro ball, whether or not they wanted to come to terms with me, I wanted to start my career.”
Although he has only appeared in two games with Carolina, Clevinger has begun to settle with his new team and his new organization. Working with pitching coach Steve Karsay has also been a welcome change of pace.
“He is definitely a little bit more into the mechanics and he is probably one of the better guys I have talked to about pitching this season,” Clevinger noted. “I am excited to work with him some more. I definitely see more of a developmental-side here with the Indians than I did from my previous team.”
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Clevinger is happy at how well and seamless joining the Tribe has been. He hopes to one day repay the faith Cleveland showed when the Indians sent Vinnie Pestano to Los Angeles for him.
“I love it,” Clevinger said. “The transition has been smooth. The guys here have been great and are very easy to get along with. It has kind of helped me with the transition. Playing in Cleveland is hard to imagine. I think about it every day. I am hoping so.”