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MINOR LEAGUES / SEAN WATERS : Clayton’s Place Could Be in the Giant Infield

While former St. Bernard High standout Royce Clayton remains in the San Francisco Giant farm system, eagerly waiting to make his major league debut, his stock continues to rise.

Rotisserie league owners have been securing his rights for next season, collectors have been buying his rookie cards in lots of 100 and promoters have been seeking his services for autograph sessions at card shows and other public appearances.

But no matter how bright his future appears to be, Clayton has yet to play a game in the majors and might not get a chance until next season.

The Shreveport Captains, the Giants’ double-A team, own the rights to Clayton and currently are playing El Paso in the Texas League championships. The best-of-seven series began Friday and will last at least until Tuesday.

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“I haven’t heard anything,” Clayton said. “I might get a chance (to get called up) after the playoffs. Right now, I’m trying to get a (championship) ring.”

The Giants consider Clayton, a shortstop, their No. 1 prospect, but the Giants are fearful of rushing him through the farm system. Clayton, 21, is in his fourth professional season after being the Giants’ first-round pick in the June, 1988, draft.

“We think he’s a very fine prospect,” San Francisco Giant President Al Rosen said. “We think he’s a major league player and in due time he could be playing in the major leagues.”

Asked whether or not Clayton would be promoted this season, Rosen said: “We haven’t made that decision yet.”

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Clayton, in his first year at the double-A level, had a .300 or better batting average for most the season with five home runs, 28 doubles and 11 triples. He also had 38 stolen bases. He was selected the best defensive shortstop and most exciting player in the Texas League by Baseball America magazine. He also was selected to the midseason and postseason Texas League all-star teams.

Clayton, however, became more than a promising prospect this summer when he hit a home run off Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser, who was playing in the Texas League on a rehabilitation assignment.

“It’s been kind of weird,” Clayton said. “People at my mother’s work suddenly want my autograph. I’ve been told that my card is one of the hottest among minor leaguers. (And) I’ve been receiving all types of calls to make personal appearances.”

The value of Clayton’s rookie cards, produced by the Upper Deck and Bowman companies, has been skyrocketing.

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“It’s gone up 50% from 50 cents to 75 cents a card,” said Matt Federgreen, who owns the Beverly Hills Baseball Card Shop in West Los Angeles. “That might not sound like much, but if you own 100 cards, that’s a considerable increase. And if he makes the majors, the card will go up (in value).”

Clayton would not comment about his fee for personal appearances, but it is believed he earns a minimum of $500 to $1,000 for a three-hour engagement.

His future appears bright and, in the not too distance future, Clayton may be the next prospect to light up Candlestick Park.

Coming attractions--Several other South Bay area minor leaguers made a name for themselves this season:

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* Third basemen Chris Donnels (South Torrance High, Loyola Marymount) and Sean Berry (West Torrance High) made their major league debuts with the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals, respectively. Coincidentally, both were married on Nov. 3.

* Brian Hunter, a former Torrance resident, was a midseason replacement at first base for the Atlanta Braves and is a candidate for National League rookie-of-the-year honors. Hunter has 11 home runs and 44 runs batted in.

* Outfielder Eric Bullock (Harbor College) remained in the majors as a pinch-hitting specialist.

* Ten-year pro Joe Redfield (Miraleste High) finally made his major league debut as a third baseman with Pittsburgh and had a key hit against the Dodgers.

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* Catcher Jorge Pedre (Harbor College) made his major league debut Saturday with the Kansas City Royals. He went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored.

* Reliever Zak Shinall (El Segundo High) moved closer to making the Dodgers roster until the team acquired Roger McDowell from Philadelphia. But the Dodgers may lose Jay Howell to free agency after the season, which could create a spot for Shinall.

* Two of Clayton’s teammates, outfielder Steve Hosey, a former Inglewood resident, and first baseman Dan Lewis (El Camino College), played well for Shreveport. Hosey had 17 home runs, third best among Giant farmhands. Lewis had 13 home runs (fourth best) and 90 RBIs (third best).

* Relief pitcher Tim Layana (Loyola Marymount) fell out of favor with the Reds, but earned frequent flyer bonuses after making three trips between triple-A Nashville and Cincinnati. Look for Layana to be in a new uniform next season.

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* Outfielders Billy Bean (Loyola) and Brad Bierley (Rolling Hills) remain in triple-A, hoping to get an opportunity when the National League expands to 14 teams in 1993.

* Basketball standout Terrell Lowery (Loyola), outfielder Tarrik Brock (Hawthorne High) and pitcher Mike Busby (Banning High) were impressive as first-year pros.

* Pitcher Chris Haslock (Cal State Dominguez Hills), catcher Miah Bradbury (Loyola) and Rico Cortes (Leuzinger High) continue their careers with independent teams.


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