Clanton leaves legacy of dedication as career nears end

Senior hopes to get drafted, says training has helped him focus



Senior outfielder Blake Clanton received the Oviatt-Lang Award on May 4 for his efforts in the weight room.

RYAN BLAKE, Evergreen reporter

Four years of hard work behind the scenes culminated in peak performance on the field and recognition off of it.

That’s the legacy WSU senior outfielder Blake Clanton leaves behind for future players to strive toward.

Clanton received the Oviatt-Lang Award at the 36th Annual Senior Recognition Luncheon from WSU Athletics on May 4.

WSU strength and conditioning specialist Adam Thackery said Clanton’s dedication to training is second-to-none.

“In the weight room, [Clanton] has made great strides to becoming one of the strongest on the team,” Thackery said. “His work ethic will never be questioned.”

The Oviatt-Lang Award is a strength and conditioning award given to an athlete who has shown exceptional effort in the weight room. The award is named after Rob Oviatt, the former WSU assistant athletic director for Physical Development who worked at the school from 2000 to 2008.

It is also named for the late David Lang, the school’s former director of strength and conditioning, who died of a heart attack February 24.

Clanton was the first male to receive the award. Senior guard Pinelopi Pavlopoulou also won the award as a member of the women’s basketball team.

Clanton said he dedicated himself to getting stronger in the weight room. He’s added 15 to 20 pounds of muscle since transferring to WSU.

“I credit that to [Thackery]. He’s pushed my body, just helped me to get better and stronger,” Clanton said.

Clanton grew up in Clinton, Oklahoma. After a decorated high school career playing baseball, football and golf, Clanton attended Western Oklahoma State College, an NJCAA Division II school in Altus, Oklahoma.

Clanton toured Oklahoma State University when Head Coach Marty Lees was still working there. The two stayed in touch and he was able to transfer to WSU in time for the 2017 season.

In his inaugural campaign in the Pac-12, Clanton hit .248 with a .346 on-base percentage and three home runs. The transition from junior college to a power-five conference was tough at times, he said.

“Pac-12 pitching is crazy,” Clanton said.  “Every weekend you see 90 to 95 [miles per hour] from every starter. You really have to be locked in each at-bat.”

After a solid junior year, Clanton has been even better in 2018. The senior is currently hitting a team leading .333 and is second on the team with nine home runs. His .633 slugging percentage is eighth best in the conference.

WSU hitting coach Jim Horner said he’s seen Clanton improve a lot this year, both physically and mechanically. He said Clanton could always hit the ball a long way but he has shortened his swing to get to the ball faster.

“He probably hits the ball further than anyone we have on the team so that probably stands out the most,” Horner said. “Strength always helps.”

Lees said Clanton has been a leader for the team on and off the field.

“He’s provided us a solid, mature baseball player in the outfield and [is] even a better person,” Lees said. “What he’s done at the plate and the progress he’s made in one year is really incredible. He’s put a lot of time into it and he doesn’t let things get out of hand.”

Clanton said he hopes to get drafted in the upcoming MLB draft and the weight room has helped him stay focused during the long baseball season.

“The extra work that I do is not only to get better but mentally it makes it harder to give up when things are tough,” Clanton said. “The strength and conditioning helps your body to keep pushing through a season because it’s four or five months you’re just playing straight.”