Fruita’s Clemons primed for special year as pitcher
Fruita Monument’s Rex Clemons has made the transition from reliable starter to dominant ace.
The Wildcats’ No. 1 pitcher is in his second year at the top of the rotation and, after a stellar junior season, has returned even tougher.
“The improvements he made from last year to this year are incredible,” Fruita Monument coach Ray McLennan said. “His velocity is way up, he has better breaking stuff and he came in here with his arm in good shape.”
Fruita opens Southwestern League play at 6 tonight against Central at Suplizio Field.
Clemons has always been talented, but in his four years at Fruita Monument he has developed and grown into arguably one of the best pitchers in the Grand Valley. Clemons moved up to the varsity toward the end of his freshman year and said despite being mostly an observer, the bump to varsity motivated him.
“It was inspiring being able to see all the big guys like Shaver Hansen play,” Clemons said.
“That was a big push for me because it help me realize that I could actually go somewhere with baseball and I had a future in it.”
Clemons locked up his baseball future this fall, signing with Mesa State College. Signing before the season allowed Clemons to take a more relaxed approach to his senior season.
“Getting all that stuff done was big for me,” Clemons said. “It allowed me to concentrate on this season and not have to worry about where I am going to college, so it was a big weight off my shoulders.”
Clemons hasn’t always been an untouchable pitcher on the mound. As a freshman, Clemons said he saw himself as a catcher who pitched. But after a no-hitter in his first varsity start,
Clemons worked on his technique and arm strength to become a better pitcher.
“My sophomore year when I started seeing varsity competition, it made me want to be able to strike most of them out,” Clemons said. “That allowed me to get that swagger on the mound.”
Clemons continued to develop his fastball, which has always been his strongest pitch, but now has a change-up as well as a solid curveball and splitter to help keep batters off-balance.
“Being able to switch it up on hitters is awesome,” Clemons said. “Hitting is all timing and as a pitcher you want to be able to mess with the hitter’s timing.”
Clemons’ versatility showed in the Wildcats’ first game against Coronado, when he struck out five batters in three innings. But Clemons’ baseball ability isn’t limited to the mound. He was selected to the Southwestern League’s first team as a utility player/DH as a junior. He plays first base for the Wildcats when he is not pitching.
“He is the whole package. He is a well-rounded athlete,” McLennan said. “He can contribute at the plate and defensively he is better than last year. Against Loveland he saved us by having a couple of nice picks in the dirt and that is what you have to have as a first baseman.”
With Clemons having one more opportunity to win a league title and make a run in the playoffs, he hopes to take the lessons learned from the Wildcats’ 2007 team that had a strong regular season but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“My sophomore year we had a great team and we went to the playoffs and didn’t do what we should have,” Clemons said. “Right now we have a great team with great chemistry and this season I want to win as many games as possible and make a run.”