Padres Prospect Interview: Clayton Hamilton

A broken foot slowed down Clayton Hamilton this year and caused him to begin his play with Peoria of the Arizona League. Hamilton performed well there but he admits the kinks are still a part of his game.

"I had a broken foot and that is why I was down in Peoria," Hamilton explains. "I was supposed to come straight to Eugene but they wanted to get me in a couple of games just to get me back on the mound to see how things worked out because it was a pretty long layoff and it is kind of hard to get thrown right back out there and actually do well. They wanted me to start out at a lower level first."

So little information filters out of Peoria, but there is a reason. No fans make it to the games out there and the weather is unbearable.

Hamilton pitched in three games with the Rookie League Padres and gave up one run on two hits and a walk in 4.1 innings of work.

"It is really hot," Hamilton said of Peoria. "The day games are pretty miserable down there."

He only saw one of the night games the league instituted. Most of his games happened at 10:30 AM and high noon was the time he got in the game.

Clayton Hamilton, a right-hander, was selected in the 17th round of the 2004 draft, 492nd overall. It was the second time the Penn State graduate was taken in the draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates first took a flyer on the Nittany Lion pitcher but he opted to return to school. His thought patter had always been education first.

"When I went to college it was because of academics," the former walk-on to the baseball program said. "All I needed was two more semesters to graduate on time. The round I went in was somewhat late to where I thought I should have went or where I wanted to go. I figured I would go back for another year and finish my degree. Baseball could wait a year."

The irony is that on the bill of his cap the words "Take nothing for granted" appear. Hamilton never knew when the last time he would play would be. That same line also magnifies how important it was for him to get a quality education.

So many players succumb to the injury bug, and it is something Hamilton is no stranger to as witnessed by his recovery from a broken leg earlier this year.

Even before that, Hamilton met head on with an injury that almost derailed the two sport star.

He was recruited out of high school as a football player and many thought that would be his calling. When he received just one letter from a Division-III school for baseball and found his doorstep filled with football offers, it would scream that he was highly regarded in the football sector while no one was aware he could throw the ball just as well, if not better, as a baseball player.

"I wouldn't say highly regarded (in football)," Hamilton mused. "I had a lot of offers. I don't remember (what colleges). I know I didn't get any for baseball.

"I had the knee injury my senior year in football. After that I felt like I lost my mobility and I didn't want to keep getting beat up like that. To me, football was fun, but I didn't feel like I could go anywhere with it.

"Baseball – I always liked baseball and I thought I was pretty good at it," Hamilton said laughing.

Funny because he was just about the only one who thought he was good at the time.

"It was kind of funny that I never got any offers. I had one offer from a Division III school to play baseball. I just decided that I liked Penn State a lot. They had great academics, my dad went there and my brother went there. I sent them a video tape, ‘I am coming to Penn State for school and I want to know if I can try out for the team.' They looked at the tape and said, ‘you can be on the team, we just can't give you any money.' I said, ‘alright that is fine.'"

Just a couple of years later he was proving his point. He was good at baseball. Good enough that he got drafted twice and he was picked four rounds earlier than when he went to the Pirates the year before.

Penn State is a known football school and not known for pounding out baseball products.

But here is Clayton Hamilton bucking those odds. His current team, the Eugene Emeralds, is dead last in the Northwest League. No thanks to Hamilton who has had two great outings in a row and has only given up more than one earned run in a game on two occasions, one of which he called his "most embarrassing moment."

Hamilton is still testing his knee as he recovers and only recently has he felt more himself and able to attack hitters. In his first year in the Padres' system, he is making strides. He is still working on a number of pitches, including a slider that has been in his repertoire since March. As he masters his comfort level on the mound and new variety of pitches, he will make his ascent up the ladder of the minor leagues.

It is just another time that Hamilton has bucked the odds.

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