Dylan Clifton-Lorton is making the most of his decision to play baseball at The Ohio State University at Lima in 2013.
Despite outstanding junior and senior seasons with Waite’s baseball team, Clifton-Lorton said college coaches weren’t exactly rolling out the red carpet to recruit him.
“This (OSU-Lima coach Abe Ambroza) was the only coach who showed interest me, and I wanted to play ball,” said Clifton-Lorton, who was voted the Barons’ freshman of the year this season. “I didn’t want to leave Toledo, initially, to go somewhere else. I’m a momma’s boy and I didn’t want to go too far. Since baseball was an opportunity, I figured I had to go. I didn’t come home once I got there. I stayed down there. That’s my new home.”
OSU-Lima competes in the Ohio Regional Campus Conference. The Barons finished 14-19 and 6-10 in the ORCC this year. Clifton-Lorton batted .370 with 18 RBI, 15 runs, seven doubles, six walks and one home run as a freshman.
Clifton-Lorton (6-0, 195), a first-team All-City League catcher his last two years at Waite and a second-team all-district selection as a senior, is playing summer ball for the Toledo Hawks, a member of the Tri-State League. Through June 24 the Hawks led the West Division with a 14-2 record and were 17-4 overall.
Clifton-Lorton chose to play for the Hawks, for players age 22 and under, instead of returning to play for coach Don “Chopper” Schmeltz’s Pemberville American Legion Post 183 squad this summer.
“I did have another year with Pemberville Legion,” said Clifton-Lorton, 18. “I chose to play with the college kids, to see some better pitching and be around kids my age. It was a great decision. We all get along and we all pretty good.”
In 15 games, Lorton was hitting .324 with six runs, five RBI and one stolen base. All 12 of his hits were singles. He splits time behind the plate with teammate Joe Gentile.
“They alternate games, and at times we’ll have Dylan or Joe where one is catching and the other one will hit,” Hawks coach Ed Mouch said. “He struggled early on, especially offensively. He’s a very good defensive catcher. Over the last week to two weeks, he’s been swinging the bat. He’s got a ton of energy when it comes to playing the game of baseball, and he’s a great kid. I’m glad he decided to play with us.”
Clifton-Lorton, the son of Waite Athletic Director Christine Lorton, said it took him a while to adjust to his new team and a new league.
“It might have been the break between the seasons, which was a couple weeks,” he said of playing for the Barons and the Hawks. “I was just trying to get back into the groove and get my confidence back. In college I played every game and I could work my way through it. Me and another catcher play 50-50 right now. If I have a bad game, it’s hard to get out of a slump if you’re seeing pitching every other game rather than every game.”
Clifton-Lorton said he was pretty much born to be a catcher.
“I really love the catcher position,” he said. “It was meant for me. There’s never a dull moment. You have to be awake every single pitch. It takes smarts and athletic ability to block the ball and throw runners out. I have a huge bruise on my thigh right now, but I don’t let it affect me. I just like playing the game.”
Clifton-Lorton, who wants to be an architect, said he’s trying to hone his skills this summer in order to be ready for the 2013-14 college season.
“Defense is key,” he said. “I aim to be a defensive catcher, and I let the hits fall into place. I don’t hit home runs, I just try to help the team out. Seeing this pitching (this summer) is definitely going to help my hitting. The runners here are faster and get better jumps, so if I get my feet working a little quicker, it will all fall into place.”
It just so happens that last summer Clifton-Lorton was an employee at the City of Toledo recreation department, the host of the National Amateur Baseball Federation College World Series. This summer, he could be playing in it.
The Hawks play in two leagues, the Toledo Amateur Federation adult league and the Tri-State Baseball League. A Hawks’ Fed championship will put the Hawks in the 20-team College World Series at Mercy Field August 1-4.
The 47-game wood bat tournament showcases some of the best college players from throughout the country. The first year it was in Toledo, 2003, St. Louis Cardinal David Freese, who became an MLB World Series MVP, was on the NABF CWS All-Tournament Team. Freese was playing for a team representing the St. Louis Metro Collegiate League.
Local youth who want to be batboys, summer interns, and other personnel are still needed for tournament organization, preparing the media guide, statistics, fundraising, and other responsibilities. Call recreation coordinators Shawn Sobel at 419-936-3887 or Aaron Myers at 419-936-3881.