Hiring a former major leaguer as head baseball coach at the high school level has become an increasingly popular option. There’s Jack Wilson at Thousand Oaks, Jerry Royster at Sierra Canyon and Royce Clayton at Oaks Christian, among others.
But it takes more than just press clippings from one’s big league days to be successful coaching high school baseball. You have to be able to not only be a good teacher but good communicator to players and their parents.
Clayton, in his third season at Oaks Christian, has hung tough in an era where everyone seems to demand immediate success. The Lions went 16-13 in 2017, 13-14-1 last season and now they’re off to an 8-2 start this season.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Clayton said.
His big emphasis has been teaching the players to perform for each other.
“I’m happy about our record but more happy about the buy in about the kids wanting to do things together and getting away from the individualist style of play,” he said.
Oaks Christian has a sophomore duo at shortstop and second base that Clayton is excited about. Gianni Horvat is outstanding defensively. And Austin Dudas is 11 for 17 at the plate. Clayton calls them “Sweet Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell but flipped,” referring to the Detroit Tigers’ double play duo for 19 years.
“He’s the highest baseball IQ of any high school player I’ve seen,” he said of Dudas. “He slows the game down. He anticipates before things are going to happen.”
Senior pitcher Ernest Adendorff has also had two outstanding starts on the mound.
Clayton, who was a first-round draft pick in 1988 and played from 1991-2007 with 11 MLB teams, has a top priority in his coaching ways.
“The most important thing is to raise good young men that will be good teammates, good husbands, good fathers,” he said. “There’s a very small percentage of kids that will play baseball after high school.”