Coach and Player, Father and Son

CLEMSON – It wasn't supposed to be this way for Tanner Leggett and his father Jack. The younger Leggett had anticipated being a starter, or at the very least a key contributor, on his dad's Clemson baseball team.

Instead, as the Tanner's fourth season as a Tiger comes to a close, he has exactly 20 career at-bats and five hits.

But to be honest, it's a wonder he has that many appearances. Three surgeries on a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder have robbed Tanner of his baseball abilities, but it a strange sense, it may have also brought father and son close together.

The surgeries cost Tanner, an infielder, most of his arm strength in throwing the ball. It also slowed his swing down, causing him not to have the power and speed he once had.

As a result, as his red-shirt junior season winds down, Tanner has participated in 26 out of a possible 180 games.

Oddly enough, he's not bitter.

"The difficult part was being hurt and being good at some point and never getting back to that point," Tanner said. "I know I deserve (to sit out) because my game never came back. I respect the others playing ahead of me. But it's hard because I want to be good again."

Watching his son go through the struggles has been no picnic for Jack, either. However, it wouldn't trade a single moment.

"It's difficult to see anybody go through an injury," Jack said. "It's been tough, but it's also been the best four years of my coaching."

The highlight of the Tanner's career, which may come to an end this year due to graduation, was when he cranked a pitch well over the fence in left field in a game against Virginia Tech in late April.

It was his first hit of the season and the first home run of his career.

While rounding third base, he paused briefly to give a longer handshake to his father, who was standing in the third base coach's box.

"Unbelievable," Tanner said. "I really don't think words can describe it. I gave him the look in the eye and the nod. He understood what it meant."

Jack was all a glow following the game, and looked the part of a very proud parent and not that of a coach that had just won a conference game.

"I just wanted the moment to last for a long time," he said. "It's one of those things that you think about and dream about. That was a priceless moment, just like the commercial says."

It remains to be seen whether or not Tanner will return for his final year of eligibility. Regardless of what he decides, the future has to get better. He's put in his hard time.

"He's been loyal and a great team player," Jack said. "He deserves everything that comes to him. He deserves something good to happen."

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