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By GOOSE LINDSAY
The 2008 Rockwood Tiger baseball team is expected to have quite a few players sign college scholarships before the season is over.
Chase Clem became the first of those Tigers to make it official as the leadoff-hitting catcher signed Thursday with Hiwassee College in Madisonville.
“I’m real excited,” Clem said at his signing ceremony. “This is something I’ve dreamed of since playing for Marty Hill and the city league Pirates when I was a little kid. I’m just happy that they (Hiwassee) are giving me an opportunity to play.”
Clem gives the Tigers a versatile player that could play behind the plate or in the outfield. Clem is a natural catcher and will play there this season at Rockwood, but he has started in the outfield up until this season.
“Hiwassee recruited me as a catcher, but I’ll play anywhere they need me to play,” Clem said. “I haven’t caught in awhile because we had Marcus (Whitaker) there for three years, but now he’s gone and I’ve got some big shoes to fill. I know I’ve got some work to do to get where I need to be.”
“We’re looking to work Chase as a catcher first,” Hiwassee head coach Lance Knight said. “His fundamentals are very good. We’ll be working with him to make him quicker, but we like what we’ve seen from.
“I’m sure we’ll work him at other positions as well. We’re looking for the nine best guys to make our team flow so that’s why he could float around a bit.”
While Hiwassee may not be sure as to where Clem will play defensively, Knight is in love with what Clem brings to the table on offense.
“I really like the way he hits and runs the bases,” Knight said. “His athleticism really stuck out when I watched him play last year. We’re looking for players to aggressive base runners and we feel that he really fits into our offensive system.”
Although Clem has solid power to all fields, he knows his biggest job as Rockwood’s leadoff hitter is getting on base. Clem isn’t afraid to take pitches to draw a walk and he also isn’t afraid to take one off the shoulder as 19 pitches hit him last season.
“I know my job is to get on base and score runs,” Clem said. “Of course I’d rather get a hit, but I’ll take one off the shoulder if it means getting on base and getting our offense going.”
Clem also knows he has a lot of work to do before heading off to college.
“I’ve just got to keep getting better offensively and defensively,” Clem said. “I’ve got to get quicker and make better throws as a catcher and I’ve got to work on having better at bats as a hitter.”
“I think the biggest adjustment for Chase and any freshman is baseball is a year round sport in college,” Knight said. “He’ll be spending a lot more time in the weight room and working on his speed and agility. College baseball is more of a lifestyle, but I think Chase is more than capable of handling it.”
Clem, however, says that he and his high school Tiger teammates have some business to finish before he becomes a college Tiger.
“It’s the state (championship) or nothing this year,” Clem said. “We’ve got three solid starters in (Zach) Breazeale, (Zach) Duncan and (Colden) Cooper and we’ve got Shane (Doughty) and Bryant (Allen) that can go yard at anytime. We’ve got what we need to win it all if it all comes together.”