A circus appears every time Bishop Hendricken senior Alex Clemmey takes the mound, the characteristics of this particular traveling company unlike the sights and sounds appearing beneath your garden-variety big top.
Sorry to disappoint the youngsters, but you won’t find any elephants, flying acrobats, or lion tamers here.
This finite brand of circus behavior tends to roam in large packs. On a recent April afternoon, an estimated 30 MLB scouts descended upon the Hendricken campus to chronicle Clemmey’s fourth start of the spring. The cavalcade marches from the school’s parking lot to the baseball field before splintering off to find room behind the chain-link fence.
I am extremely excited and honored to announce my commitment to continue my academic and baseball career at Vanderbilt University. I would like to thank my family the whole Vanderbilt coaching staff and anyone else who has helped me through this process. pic.twitter.com/aRgCOPuLUC
— Alex Clemmey (@ClemmeyAlex) July 15, 2020
The tools of the trade help to distinguish this band of curious onlookers, or perhaps they are surveyors equipped with notepads and stopwatches with a few radar guns mixed in for good measure. Best to leave nothing to chance, after all.
These scouts have specific marching orders – acquire a first-person account of a local prospect who could hear his name called as early as the first round when Major League Baseball convenes for its annual draft exercise in July.
How high in regard is Clemmey held? His first start of the 2023 season attracted 50 scouts. It’s a high sum that rekindles memories of the pre-draft buildup of former Hendricken star Rocco Baldelli, who these days is managing the Minnesota Twins. Everywhere Baldelli went during his senior year leading up to Tampa Bay selecting him with the sixth pick of the 2000 MLB Draft, the scouts were like bees swarming to honey.
The question for Clemmey is whether he sees the scouts charged with an important mission. Or has he trained his mind to block out the external noise and focus on who’s in the batter’s box, not those lurking behind it?
“It’s me and the catcher when I’m out there. That’s my thought … going through my pre-pitch process,” said Clemmey. “The scouts are normal people. They’re doing their job just like I’m doing mine. They’re here to see me and I’m here to win baseball games for my team.
“You have that cool feeling about you,” said Clemmey when asked about garnering so much attention, “but eventually, you realize it’s another baseball game.”
It’s clear the scouts mean business. During games, they will observe Clemmey from the standpoint of interaction with his Hendricken coaches and teammates. Before firming up travel plans, the guardians of a team’s future inventory will inquire about Clemmey’s next appearance on the mound.
“It’s been a lot from a communication standpoint, but it’s important to make sure you’re communicating with them to make sure they get the right eyes on him,” said Hendricken pitching coach Chris Sheehan. “They know when he’s pitching, but they’re trying to find out what kind of student he is. What’s he like in school? What’s his family like? What kind of teammate is he? Because he is a potential first-rounder, they’re digging up his life to learn as much information as possible.”
As for feedback, the scouting community won’t stick around after games to speak with Clemmey. That doesn’t mean the ranks are closed concerning soliciting their assessments.
“There’s definitely some communication taking place between third parties … relaying the information to me or Alex’s inner circle,” said Sheehan. “That’s the feedback we’re able to provide him, but Alex understands where he’s strong and the areas where he needs to improve, which aren’t many. But there’s always room for improvement. He has good awareness and maturity when it comes to those things.
“If you watch him before he pitches, you’ll see him clear his mind … exhaling and trying to execute,” Sheehan added. “He lets that be his sole focus rather than everything else that’s swirling around him. With everything that’s going on, it’s easy to get distracted.”
Standing 6-foot-6 and featuring a fastball that can dial up to the high 90s, Clemmey was well-versed in pitching with scouts on hand before this spring. Last summer, he spent considerable time away from his Middletown home after garnering selection for both the Perfect Game All-American Classic and the USA Baseball 18U National Team training camp.
“I was doing what I love, but it was also great from a maturity standpoint,” said Clemmey, who has signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Vanderbilt University. “Whatever comes this summer, whether it’s the draft or college, I think I’m ready for both.”
It’s expected that MLB teams will extend pre-draft invitations for Clemmey to work out at big-league ballparks. As for right now, this poised and mature teenager is enjoying the scrutiny and acclaim, understanding that like the circus, what he’s experiencing is fleeting. Eventually, the scouts will pack up and leave town – but not before seeing a show that’s worthy of their time.
“In terms of how he’s going about his business and taking care of his body, those are the things that are in his control,” said Sheehan. “With everything else, he’s done a really good job of blocking out.”
Brendan McGair is a sportswriter and columnist with the Pawtucket Times and the Woonsocket Call. A graduate of Providence College, McGair is a five-time recipient of the R.I. Sports Writer of the Year Award as voted by the National Sports Media Association (NSMA).
Follow McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03 and on Instagram @bwmcgair.