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March 22, 2017

Mitchell Clegg makes Washington Nationals minor league team

BaseASix months ago, amid rumors of their program getting cut, Mitchell Clegg and the rest of the Massachusetts baseball team didn’t know what their future entailed.

After the administration decided to cut the skiing team from the athletic department, the Minutemen, with Clegg as their No.1 starter, finished with a 27-26 overall record while making a strong push for an Atlantic 10 title in May.

“There was some speculation, but at the same time, I always knew that if I performed at my highest level and was given the opportunity to play, it would work out. At the same time, [I] ultimately [wanted to] help UMass reach the top of the [A-10] tournament,” Clegg said.

Now, with the team still part of the athletic program, the former Minuteman has taken his game to the next level as a member of the Vermont Lake Monsters, the Class A short-season affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals selected the left-hander from Woburn, Mass., with the first pick in the 21st round of this June’s amateur draft.

“It was an exciting thing, but it was also a relief,” Klegg said of being drafted.

Clegg quickly found a spot in the starting rotation after getting his first victory coming out of the bullpen twice, but has four losses in nine starts.

In 11 appearances with the Lake Monsters, Clegg has one complete game and posts an ERA of 2.47, surrendering one home run, 10 walks and 23 strikeouts.

On August 18, Clegg was selected to represent the National League and the Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, held in State College, Pa.

“It’s definitely an honor to be looked at as one of the main players at least at the All-Star level around the league, but a lot of it has to do with the guys you play with,” Clegg said.

Clegg pitched a scoreless third inning, facing four batters while giving up one single, walking a batter and striking out another.

Prior to beginning his professional career, Clegg finished 7-1 with a 4.15 ERA, including a team-high 81 strikeouts in 91 innings pitched in 2009. He also held opposing hitters to a .251 batting average.

After transferring from Maine to play in Amherst, Clegg finished his two-year career at UMass 11-6 with a 4.33 ERA, which included an opponent batting average of .257.

Clegg feels that the biggest difference between professional and collegiate baseball is that everyone has talent and the ability to get to the next level.

“The biggest difference is that everybody at this level can play,” Clegg said.  “Whether it’s a pitcher, or even the guys, [batting] five, six, seventh, in a lineup or the pitching rotation have all been the top one, two or even three players at their schools, in terms of their ability at that level, whether high school or college.”

Regardless of where Clegg ends up, he will always look back at his days as a member of the Minutemen fondly.

“I think the biggest thing I will take from playing at UMass is the camaraderie and the group of guys I played with,” Clegg said.

“Especially last season, with the talk of the program getting cut, and I think there was really a turning point where the leadership of the seniors took over because we knew what it took to win.”

He may not be a big-time major league prospect, but Clegg likes his chances of one day pitching in the major leagues.

“There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than playing baseball right now, and hopefully I can make it a career and can do it until I am no longer able to play.”

David Brinch can be reached at dbrinch@student.umass.edu.

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