Clemson’s baseball program has recruited at a high level for years — a natural reflection of its longstanding success on the diamond — and the Tigers brought in another elite signing class this year that was rated No. 12 in the nation and No. 2 in the ACC by Collegiate Baseball.
Clemson baseball has a lot to sell on the recruiting trail as it always has, but even more so right now, less than a year and a half removed from the opening of its new $9 million baseball player facility and less than a year removed from winning 44 games and an ACC-record 10th Baseball Championship last May under first-year head coach Monte Lee.
“It’s a really, really good time at Clemson right now,” Clemson assistant baseball coach Bradley LeCroy told The Clemson Insider during an exclusive interview.
Oh, and Clemson’s football team winning the national championship helps with recruiting for baseball, too, LeCroy said.
All of the national exposure Clemson University received during the football team’s back-to-back runs to the national title game in 2015 and ’16 has been invaluable to LeCroy and his staff in recruiting.
More and more recruits want to visit Clemson, and when the coaches bring them on campus for football games in the fall, they fall in love with the school.
“It gives us a spotlight and a national brand of Clemson,” LeCroy said of how the football program’s success has affected baseball recruiting. “It shows what a special place Clemson is. When they’re on ESPN every night, SportsCenter, Coach (Dabo) Swinney’s doing interviews every day, Deshaun Watson, Ben Boulware, all those guys are doing interviews — it just shows you what a special place Clemson is.
“The energy level around campus when we bring guys into football games… We’re always trying to bring guys in on Saturdays in the fall because they get a true meaning of what Clemson is when they see Death Valley packed, they see the tailgating, Tiger Walk, all of the things that go on at the event as a football game. It’s great.”
Clemson Baseball is a national brand, as well, and the Tigers consistently compete with other ACC and SEC powers for the best recruits.
Add the football program’s success to what Clemson’s baseball program has to offer, and even more doors are opened in recruiting for Lee, LeCroy and the staff.
“We can go all over the country recruiting, but with the success that they have by winning a national championship, playing for a national championship last year, it just opens more doors for us,” LeCroy said. “Now kids, every Saturday, they see they’re ranked in the top five in the country, they just won a national championship, and they know the power of the Paw as coach Swinney talks about all the time. And we’ve used it to our advantage, there’s no question about it.”
Take Clemson signee Logan Davidson, who enrolled over the summer, as a prime example of the power of the Paw.
Davidson, a shortstop from Charlotte, N.C., was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 30th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft in June. But he wasn’t watching when his name was called on national television, knowing he was going to be a Tiger regardless and enroll less than two weeks later.
Now, after impressing during fall practice, the former All-American and North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year is on the inside track to replace Eli White, who was drafted in the 11th round by the Oakland A’s, as Clemson’s starting shortstop this season.
“We’re very lucky that he wanted the college experience, he wanted to come to Clemson,” LeCroy said of Davidson. “The family valued an education, valued the college experience and lifestyle, and he’s been as good or better than advertised.”
Davidson is just one of the true freshmen that LeCroy anticipates will make an immediate impact during the 2017 season. Covington (Ga.) left-handed pitcher Mitchell Miller, Moore (S.C.) lefty Jacob Hennessy and Belton (S.C.) right-hander Blake Holliday are a few of the first-year players LeCroy foresees getting a significant number of innings on the mound.
Miller, an Under Armour All-American in high school, was rated as the No. 49 freshman in the country and the No. 9 freshman in the ACC in the preseason by Perfect Game.
“Really, really good talent,” LeCroy said of Miller. “He’s got some serious upside. Coach (Andrew) See’s done a great job with him. We expect big things from him.”
LeCroy wouldn’t go as far to say that recruiting for Clemson baseball is easier right now than it has been in recent memory, with the stiff competition they face for top talent on an annual basis.
But with all of the momentum the team and the school has as a whole has right now, it’s certainly not any harder.
“I think winning the ACC and doing the things that we did — a national seed in coach Lee’s first year — the momentum is really good right now,” LeCroy said. “The new building has helped tremendously, and then everything else that’s going on on campus —top 20 public institution in the country, the things that the football team’s done, the spotlight it’s put on Clemson University… Kids want to come to Clemson, and it’s our job to evaluate them and see if they’re a fit for our program.
“But it’s a really, really good time at Clemson right now.”