Tournaments : : Story
Friday, October 22, 2010

Faith wins out for Clayton

Jeff Dahn        

JUPITER, Fla. – Idaho City, Idaho, native Porter Clayton made a decision as a youngster that his faith carried a little more weight in his life than baseball, no matter how much he grew to excel at the game.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-hander is Perfect Game’s 46th-ranked top national prospect in the high school graduating class of 2011, and has made a college commitment to Oregon of the Pacific 10 Conference.

But Clayton has also made a commitment of another kind.

He is a is a devout Mormon and decided early in his young life – he turned 17 in May – to take part in a Mormon Mission two years after he graduates from high school. He will likely enroll early at Oregon and get two years of baseball experience at the collegiate level before going on his mission.

 “I’m thinking of graduating (from high school) early, so that’s the plan for me right now,” Clayton said.

If Clayton should happen to get drafted in June’s First Year Player Draft in an early round, he said most Major League teams like for the player to complete the mission, and then they will come back with an offer.

Perfect Game projects Clayton as a late third-round selection.

In the meantime, he’s staying his course as far as the mission is concerned.

“I’ve wanted to do it my whole life and my parents have been very supportive of it,” Clayton said. “A lot of people have been very supportive of it, so nothing but positive things have come out of it so far.”

Clayton is in Jupiter this week playing in the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship at the Roger Dean Complex. He is a member of the far-flung Ohio Warhawks, a team based in Springfield, Ohio, that doesn’t have a single player from Ohio on its World Championship roster.

There are, however, players from Texas, Callifornia, Georgia, Minnesota, Washington, Tennesse, Colorado, a whopping seven from Nevada, and one – Clayton – from Idaho.

Clayton has played wiith some of the Warhawks before this week’s World Championship, including catcher Greg Bird (2011, Aurora, Colo.), third basmean Joey Gallo (2011, Hendersonville, Nev.) and right-hander Cole Wiper (2011, Bellevue, Wash.).

“It’s not really an unfamiliar atmosphere,” Clayton said. “They’re a team that won a national championship this summer, so they’re more of a core team that just let the rest of us play with them.”

Clayton pitched the first two innings of the Warhawks’ 3-2, come-from-behind win over Sandlot/Midwest Scout Team Friday afternoon, and admitted to a case of nerves.

“The first inning I was a little nervous and my mechanics broke down, but in the second inning I came out a lot more relaxed and it went well.”

The Warhawks are coached by Ron Slusher, the oganization’s founder.

“He has control of his pitches and he can spot his fastball,” said Slusher, who has been around his ace for only three days. “He has good movement on his fastball, a nice little tail-runner, and a nice curveball.”

This is not Clayton’s first baseball trip away from Idaho. He took part this summer in the PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., as well as the Area Code Games at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif.

A Perfect Game scout at the National Showcase reported that Clayton has a “very impressive feel for movement/location/spin (with a) mature approach on the mound.”

“It’s not really overwhelming,” Clayton said of being at the World Championship. “It’s a lot of fun just seeing all the good players here, because a lot of the top players are here, almost everyone of them. It’s fun to come with a team like the Warhawks who know each other and let you play with them.”

The Warhawks are kind of an interesting story in and of themselves.

Slusher founded the Miami Vallley Warhawks Baseball Club in 1990 and the program’s top team soon became known as the Ohio Warhawks.

Almost 300 former Warhawks players have been drafted, including 28 first-rounders, according to Slusher. He said 45 former Warhawks are playing in the Major Leagues, including Pat Burrell, J.D. Drew. A.J. Pierzynski and Roy Halladay.

Warhawk teams have won 10 national championships through the years, and it is that success and the fact the MVWBC charges no player fees that has drawn in top talent like Clayton.

He is grateful for the exposure Perfect Game has given him, saying, “I’m from Idaho, so the first big showcases is whenever I come to Perfect Game (events).”

His next big showcases will probably be two years of baseball at Oregon, then a two-year Mormon Mission. Both should be very gratifying.
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