LOD Exclusive Interview: Indians Ernie Clement Discusses His Journey to Make The Majors
Every athlete has had the dream of making it to the big leagues. The very first thought that crosses their mind is, “I’m going to make it! My name will be on the billboards!” But it’s not very often that that happens. Although for Ernie Clement, that was the case. He started playing baseball from the age of two and hasn’t stopped yet. It was always his dream to make it to the point where he is today.
Growing up, baseball was not a huge option in Ernie’s life. He was born in Rochester, New York while being the middle child with both an older and a younger sister. When asked how he felt his life was growing up while playing baseball, Ernie states, “So, growing up I was a middle child, I had an older sister and a younger sister. We lived in Rochester, New York so baseball wasn’t really big. I just loved baseball from the time I was really young, I actually started playing when I was about two years old, and I always loved it.” He continues with, “I always tried other sports too, I played pretty much any other sport possible growing up just trying to figure out what I wanted to do while staying active and busy. In the winter time you can’t really go outside and play baseball, so I had to get out and do other sports.” Playing baseball was not the easiest thing for Ernie to pursue, but he was 100% committed.
When asked what his plan before baseball was, Ernie replies, “I actually always wanted to play baseball. I was going to run with the baseball thing for as long as I could and I’m going to keep doing it for as long as I can, until somebody tells me that I can’t play anymore. There’s really no backup plan, I want to put everything I have into baseball and hopefully it takes me pretty far.” His commitment to the sport is what helped Ernie get to where he is today. Had he not been committed, he may never have come as far as he has due to his life growing up.
With baseball being such a hard thing to come by in New York, Ernie had a hard time being able to pursue his dream. “My dad signed me up to play little league when I was two. Growing up I think I learned how to walk and then I learned how to swing a bat. I just loved all of the aspects of baseball and all the other sports that my dad was able to sign me up a little bit early for. I think most of the kids were three or maybe four years old, so I was a little early to the party. But I was just really lucky that my dad introduced it to me at a young age.” Had it not been for his dad, he may never have been able to begin the journey when he did.
He also states, “I think the biggest struggle was where I grew up and how seriously they take baseball in Rochester, New York. Growing up, we didn’t have any big travel teams going around, and I kind of had to branch out and take initiative and do stuff on my own.” Had he not been signed up for little league at such a young age, he may never have been able to meet the atmosphere due to where he was raised. He continues, “ I went to camp at the University of Virginia when I was a sophomore. I was pretty undersized and I think a lot of the other guys had a lot more exposure and a lot more skill, so I had to find a way to stick out and find a way to make an impact in the game in different ways. So, I did everything with a smile on my face and a good attitude. I think that actually really helped me because I wasn’t the most skilled player on the field, I wasn’t the biggest, I wasn’t the strongest, but I found a way to help my team win, and I helped my teammates along the way too. Along the way I tried to lift them up and make them the best players they could possibly be. “
When the time finally came for Ernie to play baseball in college though, he began to walk away past his big league dreams. “I committed to the University of Virginia when I was going into my senior year and I never really thought about playing professional baseball, I mean always wanted to win a world series and play professionally but when I went to college I just couldn’t take the opportunity that was presented in front of me. I worked as hard as I could and tried to have a great time doing it.” But that’s not where his story ends, “I was kind of where my feet were, I wasn’t really thinking about professional baseball and then all of a sudden my junior year came around and I was like ‘Wow! I might actually have a chance at getting drafted. This is like the coolest thing ever!’ I was really pumped about it. I think the fact that I really didn’t think about that and just kind of concentrated on the task at hand, that definitely helped me get drafted and then ultimately to get where I am right now.”
Baseball is not an easy game aside from Ernie’s struggles with being noticed. Baseball is a game that truly relies on your mental aspect. A lot of the time you fail, and when asked how Clement overcomes his failures in the game, he responds with, “Failure is such a huge part of baseball. I don’t really look at any of it as a failure. I look at each failure as an opportunity to learn and to get better so I use it as a way to learn and to hopefully minimize the mistakes in the future, I look at it as ‘I get to play a game and I get paid to do it’, so I’m pretty lucky to be where I am and I don’t really take any opportunity or any second on the field for granted. When I do fail, I fail with a smile on my face, have a good attitude and I try to have as much fun as possible out there.”
Baseball is also a huge teammate dependent sport to Ernie. He states that his teammates are what truly helps keep the game fun, “I think you fail so much more in a sport like baseball and the coolest part about it is you have eight other guys on the field with you that can pick you up. You know you might strike out with the bases loaded but you have to believe that the guy behind you is going to get the job done, and I think that’s a really cool part about baseball that maybe you don’t get to see in other sports. I just think that the whole team aspect is one of my favorite things about it. I got to play in the fall league this past fall and I got to meet a whole new group of guys. To see us all click together just immediately was so cool because it’s the top prospects from each organization. It was so cool to see such good baseball players but then such good human beings. Just to see these guys succeed and to get to pick them every once in a while and to watch them pick me up, it’s why I love baseball.” And the teammates truly are a huge part of the sport. You always have one another to lean on and you know that if you make a personal failure, your team is going to be there to help you get right back up and recover.
In fact, his teammates are his biggest role models in the sport, “I’ve been fortunate to move up through the Indians system rather quickly so far so I’ve gotten to play with some of the older veteran guys. I watched the way that just a couple of the guys played and I love to see some of the older guys who play with such passion and love for the game. It’s so cool to see because they’ve been in the big leagues, they’ve played for fifteen years already, and they still come to the ballpark everyday with a great attitude and a lot of them are just such leaders on the team, I see that and I really want to do that for the younger kids, like once I get older and have played for a while I want to be able to help everyone else. I want to be able to make sure everyone has a great experience in the game.” He goes on to say that his teammates are the ones that he has looked up to the most during his career. His dad signed him up early for the sport, but his teammates helped him pursue it.
When asked what his favorite part about baseball is, Ernie responds with everyone’s greatest feeling, the feeling of winning. Although his definition of winning is slightly different from every young kid’s thoughts, “I love going through an entire season with a team and watching everyone grow but my favorite thing in the world is winning. I just love to win. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on some really good teams and we’ve done a lot of winning so when we don’t win, it’s a different experience. When you come together as a team and grow and at the end of the day you get to win, it doesn’t happen by accident, winning the game of baseball is very hard and you have to do a lot of things right so when you do win it’s one of the best feelings in the world.”
Many sports have an effect on you as a person. They shape you into the person you are and will become in your near future. When asked how baseball has affected Ernie as a person, he responds with, “It goes right back to the whole team aspect and being able to deal with failure. When my baseball career is over, it’s going to be cool because when I want to raise a family, I’m going to be able to work with my family and try to help them become the best people they can be. I’ll be able to watch them pick me up and I’ll be able to pick them up. It’sF going to help so much. If I fail or if I see somebody fail, baseball has taught me to pick them up and make sure that they are okay and can move forward, make sure that they can be the best that they can be.” His overall dream of playing major league baseball is only one he can continue to pursue, but his overall life due to baseball will never die.
Ernie Clement grew up with a love for baseball even with the struggles that existed due to his hometown, Rochester, New York. He always worked hard in order to pursue his dream of playing in the majors. Now that he has been able to see what it is like to play at such a high level, he has learned so much. His love for the game has only grown with the love of meeting his family of baseball players. He went to the University of Virginia where he finally figured out that his lifelong dream, was finally able to come true.