The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Christian Trent in the 29th round last month. That’s not something…
“This program speaks for itself,” said the former Kansas State and Texas A&M assistant coach. “When you walk into a ballpark with this script Ole Miss on your chest, even in the first 48 hours I had that on, it’s amazing how many people have talked to me.
“And I’ve gotten an education on Hotty Toddy.”
He wasn’t sure what he was hearing when people walked by or introduced themselves to him. He called Andrew Case, a director of operations for Ole Miss baseball, for the back story on those two words.
“I started to count the number of times people have walked by me (in Atlanta) and said that, but I lost track all in a matter of 48 hours,” said Clement, who moves into the position on head coach Mike Bianco’s staff vacated by Cliff Godwin, now the head coach at East Carolina. “I called Andrew to give me the rundown on exactly what Hotty Toddy meant. And now I know.”
He also knows he’s happy to be coaching at Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference for a program that just returned from a tie for third place in the College World Series.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity and really excited to work in such a program at the level and the standard that is here,” said Clement, which spent two seasons at Kansas State, three at Texas A&M, and four at Texas-San Antonio. “I hope we can find a way to win those last three or four games and be the last team standing in Omaha.”
Clement said Ole Miss is a program that obviously recruits well locally and also nationally. He admits he will use his contacts in places where he’s been to find talent for the Rebels.
“It helps to a certain degree,” he said of being able to make contact in the areas where he’s coached in the past. “But when you get to a school like Ole Miss and schools in the SEC, a lot of times those schools sell themselves. I think those ties don’t hurt. Most of my coaching career in the Division I level was spent in the state of Texas. So I have some good relationships there with high school coaches and travel ball coaches. I’ll use those connections, absolutely.”
However, the Rebels will have players on their roster this season from the state of Washington all the way to Florida.
“It doesn’t matter where they’re from, if they’re passionate about coming to Ole Miss, if they want to be a part of something special and something bigger than themselves, then we’ll find that good player,” Clement said.
He also said he wasn’t necessarily looking for another move at this time, and he doesn’t consider himself transient in the first place.
“We had a great thing going at Kansas State,” he said. “I’ve never been a guy that hopped from job to job or looked for a job at every opportunity. But you look at Coach Bianco’s program and the university and the town of Oxford, it was really a no-brainer. It’s an entirely different level of athlete. I’m just excited for school to start and to be able to work with those guys.
“I’ve admired Coach Bianco and his program from afar for a very long time. I obviously have big shoes to fill. But I'm really humbled and excited for this opportunity.”
Clement said his wife, Amanda, who is from Texas, is as happy as he is about the move to Ole Miss. Maybe moreso.
“If it’s possible to be more excited than I am,” he said, “that may be her. She’s really excited to be in Oxford.”
Here is a bit of insight to Clement, his thoughts and philosophies:
On working with and developing players - “Coaching is about relationships. If the players truly believe in me, we can have success. And it goes both ways. If I believe in them, and that’s what I want to start with, building those relationships. That’s what Cliff (Godwin) did an unbelievable job of. Those guys believed in him. It all starts with relationships. It was obvious in the few games I got to watch them on TV last season that they had a special team chemistry. It was fun to watch.”
On what he thinks of next season’s personnel - “I haven’t met any of the players, although I did reach out to three or four of them. You look at it on paper and there are guys returning that had success. More than anything you want guys with a blue-collar mentality and to play with a toughness and a chip on their shoulder. That’s what I saw in the limited number of games I got to watch on TV. It looks like an exciting group and I’m excited to get things started.”
On knowing current Ole Miss strength & conditioning coach Ben Fleming, a Kansas State staffer prior to arriving in Oxford last summer - “In the hiring process and after the initial call (from Bianco), Ben was the first guy I called. He’s inside the program and I picked his brain about his 12 months here, the players and coaching staff, and really all the staff that’s a part of it that are so important to the program. He couldn’t say a bad thing about the entire program, the university, and the town. That made a big impact on me. I know him. I trust him. That went a long way for me to have a comfort level with the interview process and creating a relationship with Coach Bianco. All those things are important. It’s nice when you go to a new place to have a familiarity with somebody, and I do with Ben.”
On his offensive style and philosophy - “You want to put pressure on the other team. Pressure can come in a lot of different ways. A lot of that is dictated upon the team that we have. Some guys can bang the ball around, some guys can steal bases, and some are pure hitters. I like to put pressure on the defense in a lot of different ways. We’re going to be able to handle the bat. We’re going to be able to execute. My offensive philosophy is we’re going to want to be uptempo. And what I mean by uptempo is not that we’re going to steal 125 bases next year. We do want to be very good on the bases. We want to be able to take the extra base. We want to be able to be very good at going first to third. We want to stay flat in the middle of the field. Flat doesn’t mean ground balls. Flat means backspinning line drives. Sometimes backspinning line drives will leave the yard. I’m no different than anyone else. I love a home run.”
On recruiting - “First and foremost, Carl (Lafferty) does an unbelievable job in recruiting. Obviously Cliff had a big hand in that. But Carl being the recruiting coordinator, you can see the product on the field. But recruiting is not a one-man job. Coach Bianco wants to go find the best players. He’s had a lot of (recruiting) success in SEC country. But he’s fine going all over the place to find the best players. Obviously we want to have a lot of success with players in high schools from the state of Mississippi. They’ve done a good job of that here.”
On facing Ole Miss in 2012 when he was at Texas A&M - “They came to our place in our (NCAA) Regional when we were still in the Big XVII. Ole Miss beat TCU and we beat Dayton. Then we met on that Saturday night, and (former Ole Miss pitcher) Mike Mayers was phenomenal (the Rebels won 6-3). I assume I’ll get a chance to meet him here in the offseason when he comes back to work out. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. He was really competitive and really good.”
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