Clement Singles in First Pro At-Bat with Everett

"The designated hitter, number 27, Jeff Clement." Jeff Clement finally heard these words in the bottom of the second inning Wednesday night in Everett. The biggest adjustment of his baseball career had begun. The transition from a talented amateur, to a professional baseball player.

"That's baseball for you," the 21-year-old prospect explained. "You've got to make adjustments all the time."

The third pick in this year's First Year Player's Draft has a lot of adjusting to do if he is going to become the Mariners' catcher of the future, but now that the negotiations are over and his contract is signed, the process can begin.

Clement can't wait.

"I'm excited about it," Clement said before his 1-for-5 performance in his pro debut Wednesday night at Everett Memorial Stadium, an 11-7 AquaSox win. "I have the opportunity to start my professional career. I'm happy it didn't take any longer than it did. I'll be able to get quite a few at-bats and catch quite a few innings that way. I'm very happy things worked out the way they did."

The left handed slugger wasted no time before making a contribution to his new team. In his first professional at-bat, Clement looped a 3-1 pitch into centerfield for a single. Three batters later he scored on a Mike Saunders double.

Considering that Clement hadn't faced live pitching since the college season ended, it was a surprisingly positive beginning. Especially when you consider the catcher's notoriously slow starts during his college years at USC.

"I started off 1-15 my freshman year," Clement recalled. "This year I started off hitting about .200 and people asked my brother what the deal was and he said, ‘What do you mean, he's getting off to a hot start this year!' So hopefully I can change that around here."

One thing the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder cannot change are the hopes of a legion of Mariners fans who have grown tired of the catcher position being an offensive black hole. The hope is that Clement can pass through the minor league ranks quickly and contribute to the Mariners as soon as possible. But Clement isn't hearing any of it.

"I try to put it out of my mind because when you set goals like that for yourself the only thing you're going to do is put more pressure on yourself and you won't perform as well," Clement explains. "My goal every day is to get better"

Getting better begins with working on defense, and Clement has wasted no time working on his skills behind the plate. The University of Southern California and Iowa native spent time Tuesday and Wednesday working with Mariners roving catching instructor, Roger Hansen. The 21-year-old knows what he wants to work on—everything.

"The whole aspect of catching I want to improve upon," Clement remarked. "I want to be more accurate with every throw. I've had some success in the past. I threw pretty well in college but I want to make it so I'm consistently on the mark every single throw. Catching I want to be nice and smooth back there, nice and relaxed, and block things well."

While Clement hopes to steadily improve his skills behind the plate, the Mariners drafted him for his abilities at the plate. He finished his collegiate career second on USC's career home run list behind only Mark McGwire. But there is one major adjustment a college hitter needs to make once he enters the professional ranks - adjusting to using a wooden bat.

Clement seems to have prepared himself for the transition.

"In high school I played with wood in the spring and fall, both summers in college and that's what I've been hitting with at home," the former Trojan explains. "I don't anticipate it being too much of an adjustment. I'm more worried about adjusting to a guy throwing 95 and throwing good breaking stuff that using a wood bat."

While it remains to be seen how successful Clement can be in Everett this season, his attitude and work ethic are not question marks at all.

"I just look at myself as another player," Clement said. "I don't see myself as any more special than anyone else. I'm going to show up here and put as much hard work into it as I can, get here as early as possible, try to be a better catcher and a better hitter, and get to know my teammates and be a good teammate. I don't look at myself as any different. I just try to be as good of a baseball player and person as possible."

That attitude is the one thing Jeff Clement doesn't need to adjust. And it just may take him all the way to the major leagues.

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