College | Story | 3/27/2020

Clawson a man with a mission

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Cutter Clawson (BYU Athletics)

The reality of being a student-athlete at Brigham Young University was starting to come into clearer focus for BYU freshman two-way standout Cutter Clawson even before the 2020 regular season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic just three weeks in.

BYU is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (informally known as the Mormon Church) and students are encouraged to sign-up for a voluntary two-year Church mission to be served while they are under grads.

Clawson, a 19-year-old left-handed pitcher/first baseman who was selected in the 33rd round of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft right out of Laguna Beach (Calif.) High School, is scheduled to begin his mission to Lima, Peru, on June 25.

“I’m getting ready to head to Peru to go and teach about my Church … but that can change,” Clawson told PG during a telephone conversation this week. “At any point in time I could get an email saying that I have been reassigned. It just depends on how this whole situation works itself out.”

Everyone’s life is seemingly on hold during this global health crisis, including those of college baseball players. Clawson is hunkered-down back home in Laguna Beach these days, completing his classwork online like every other student at the university.

His hometown is on lockdown but he’s doing his best to stay busy and stay in shape mostly by running and hiking; he also gets some throwing in whenever opportunity presents itself.

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder did get a bit of a taste of what it’s like to play college baseball at the D-I level, with the Cougars playing 16 games (they went 7-9) before the season was cancelled.

With a low- to mid-90s fastball, Clawson is a highly regarded left-handed pitching prospect (PG ranked him as California’s No. 2 LHP in 2019) but he very much considers himself a two-way player.

He made four appearances on the mound for the Cougars during their 16 games this season and gave up one earned run on five hits in 2 1/3 innings (3.86 ERA). He went up to hit in nine games as a first baseman and DH, going 7-for-20 (.350) with a home run, a double, two RBI and three runs scored.

“I love pitching so much. I love being in control of the game and just being on the mound and being able to compete that way,” Clawson said. “But I love swinging the bat, as well. I don’t know when that decision (of just doing one) has to come or if it ever has to come, but it’s going to be a hard one to make, for sure. I love being known as a two-way guy and I love being able to do both.”

And, yes, the kid named Cutter does in fact throw a cutter, or at least a slight variation of one. He said his four-seam fastball does cut, and it’s a pitch he uses when he’s trying to go inside to a right-handed hitter or trying to spot-up outside to a lefty.

The decision to attend BYU was a no-brainer for Clawson, mostly because of his Mormon faith and his family’s long relationship with the school. Both of his parents, Travis and Kimberly, are BYU grads. His cousin, David Clawson, was a catcher for the Cougars in 2017-18 and is now an Angels farmhand; a sister-in-law, Brooke Romney Clawson, played basketball at BYU.

“Our facilities (at BYU) are awesome and we have the best coaches that I could ever hope to meet in college,” Clawson said, specifically naming head coach Mike Littlewood and associate head coach Trent Pratt. “Not only that, it’s just a great school … and all-around it’s just a great place.”

Clawson is undecided  on his major, but he told PG that he has a lot of different interests and he’ll probably wait until he returns from his mission before making that decision. But this much is known and undisputed: Clawson enjoyed his first year in Provo about as much as a first-year college student possibly could have.

“If I could go back in time, I would; I had so much fun my freshman year,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever (been around) a closer group of guys from my baseball team, everybody was so close; it was amazing. And the baseball, I just enjoyed it so much more because we’re always working so hard. When it had to come to an end so (quickly), that was really hard.”

Cutter Clawson enjoyed a very noteworthy Perfect Game career, excelling in 13 events from 2016-18 and adding a 14th when he attended the PG Identifier California Pre-Draft Showcase in May 2019.

He was at most of PG’s biggest showcase events, including the 2017 PG Junior National in Fort Myers, Fla., the 2017 PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego and the 2018 PG National Showcase in St. Petersburg, Fla. He never failed to make an impression at those events and received a top PG grade of 10.0 at the National.

“I had so much fun at those (showcases),” Clawson said. “My junior year going down and playing at jetBlue Park (Jr. National), I was with Cooper Benson, I was with Brooks Lee, I was with Tyler Callihan, I was with Bobby Witt Jr; I was with all those guys. … Just being in that atmosphere and having so much fun, it taught me how to be able to play loose when there are eyes watching you.”

But it was while playing for Jared Sandler’s Southern California-based BPA program where Clawson really made his mark. He earned all-tournament recognition eight times, including twice (2017, 2018) at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., and at the 2016 PG WWBA 15u National Championship, the 2017 PG WWBA 16u NC and the 2018 PG WWBA 17u NC, all played in the Atlanta area.

The last BPA team he played for featured other highly ranked 2019 grads including right-hander Evan Fitterer (now with the Marlins), the left-hander Benson (Arizona State), the middle-infielder Lee (Cal Poly) and outfielder Petey Halpin (Texas).

“Jared Sandler really prepared me. I couldn’t have received any better preparation to play college baseball,” Clawson said. “He had been my coach since I was eight years old and he knows his stuff. He knows how to get players ready to make that next-level jump. …

“Putting some of the best players out there together – guys like Cooper Benson and Brooks Lee – those guys are killing it and were doing really good for their teams and getting a lot of playing time at the college level.”

Like so many of the rest of us in these trying times, Cutter Clawson’s life is in a bit of a holding pattern right now – there are just way too many questions and not many answers at this point. He’s known all along that his baseball career would be put on the shelf for two years even if the 2020 season had run its course.

He’s certainly not bitter - his mission commitment was voluntary, after all - and there are no regrets. He played in a college program-like atmosphere with BPA for three years and got a small sampling of what a real college season is like, at least for a few weeks, anyway.

And if Clawson is able to begin his Church mission in June, he will miss the 2021 and 2022 baseball seasons but plans to be back in Provo in the fall of 2022.

“Moving forward, my next big thing right now is my mission,” Clawson said. “I’m doing everything I can to stay in my best physical shape for baseball but I’m also preparing myself to head out for those two years. … I’m going to be giving up my life to service for two years for my church, so that’s my biggest thing right now.”

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