CCC baseball player Hunter Clayton shares love for the sport

 

Hunter Clayton, a younger white man smiles at the camera. He wears a red baseball cap with the Cougars logo on it. Red-tinted sunglasses sit upside-down on the brim. He wears a blue hoodie with the Cougars logo on it, alongside the text "COUGARS BASEBALL".

A portrait of Hunter Clayton. Photo by Evan Tichenor.

 

By Gabriella Vigil

Sports Editor

 

Snowboarding, hiking, golfing or just being outdoors, Clackamas Community College baseball player Hunter Clayton’s strongest passion is baseball. 

“The best thing about baseball is it teaches you about life, it’s a game of failure,” Clayton said. “You can do everything right in life but still not get a good outcome, and that’s kind of how baseball is.”

Clayton grew up in a baseball and softball family in Hillsboro, Oregon, and began playing baseball at five years old. 

“As a kid, they gave me a ball and a bat and just went from there,” Clayton said. 

Clayton played baseball throughout high school at Glencoe High School. Before attending CCC, and playing for head coach Jim Hoppel, Clayton attended Lane Community College until being cut from the team freshman year. 

“I just contacted Coach Hop and told him my situation,” Clayton said. “He gave me a chance and it all paid off.” 

At 24 years old, Clayton has been on the CCC team the longest out of all the players.

His first year at CCC was 2020 when COVID-19 hit, causing the baseball season to be canceled. Clayton came back and played, but suffered a dislocated shoulder injury that put him out for the season during his last year. 

“It motivated me because the time I was away from the game, it made me miss it a lot and I was like I took my time here for granted,” Clayton said. “This year, I came back with a fire under me. I thought my career was over last year and thank the Lord I was able to come back and heal from it.” 

Clayton has come back for his fifth and final season at CCC. 

“I had a lot of fears coming into this year, coming off an injury and being so old. I have a lot to step up to in this season,” Clayton said. “With the help of my coaches, my teammates, my family, our trainer, they’ve gotten me back and I’ve been able to have my best season at Clackamas so far.” 

With all the setbacks, Clayton has been with the team longer than most.

“I’m probably going to be the only kid that ever goes to this school for five years, but it’s been awesome. I wouldn’t change it for anything,” Clayton said. 

While away from home, Clayton and his teammates have become very close. 

“It’s like having a family. I’ve been away from my parents and away from home for six years now,” Clayton said. “I’ve never really been homesick because I’ve kind of had a family every year on my team.” 

Sebastian Laddusaw, CCC baseball teammate, applauds Hunter for his strong efforts this season. 

“We started off the year pretty rough, but we all came together at that time,” Laddusaw said. “Hunter’s been that guy on the team that’s really tried to grind things out.” 

“He’s definitely dedicated to playing the game so I give him props for that,” Laddusaw said. “It’s showing in games and he’s playing pretty solid right now. It’s definitely a very thoughtful process of when he puts in the work and it shows on the field.”

One of Clayton’s most memorable moments was hitting a walk off. 

“We were playing our number 2 team in the league and in a tie game, bottom of the ninth, and I was in the on deck box. There’s runners on second and third and I was like, oh boy, am I going to get up,” Clayton said. “And sure enough, I ended up getting up in the game and I got to hit a game winning walk off hit and my team went crazy.”

“It was a really cool moment for me because every baseball player dreams of being in that moment to hit a walk off,” Clayton said. “Thank the Lord I was able to get put into that position and come through for it. I’ll remember that day probably for the rest of my life.”

Clayton admits the game of baseball has its highs and lows. 

“I know there’s going to be times where I go through stretches of, ‘I can’t hit the ball, I can’t do this,’ or there’s times where I’m hitting the ball well and it’s just going straight to people, and that’s just kind of the game of baseball,” Clayton said. “You gotta play your waves and they come in runs, and you got to just trust the work that you’ve put in. Trust your coaches and trust your team and it usually all pans out in the end.”

When having bad performances, Clayton has been working to remain level-headed. 

“I’m performing at my worst when I’m emotional, which I tend to do sometimes just because I’m so competitive and I really want to win,” Clayton said. “That’s one of the biggest things I’m working on right now, staying calm and collected in times of stress.”

Jim Hoppel, CCC’s head baseball coach, described Clayton in one word: Fireblood.

“He goes all out and dives for balls that guys won’t usually make and is a big time hustler,” said Hoppel. “He’s just such a competitor at this level and hopefully that will carry him to the next level.”

“He’s a D1 level outfielder and he’ll get some place big, he’s a really good athlete and he’s done a great job,” Hoppel said. 

Clayton shared his utmost respect toward Coach Hoppel. 

“Coach Hoppel here, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s helped me on the field, off the field, and academically,” Clayton said. “I could name 20 different pieces of advice he’s given us. He’s seriously helped me become a man and become who I am today.” 

With Clayton’s time at CCC coming to an end, he hopes for a future full of baseball. 

“I’m actually working with my coaches right now. I have a couple offers, but I haven’t decided where I’m going yet,” Clayton said. “I’m going to play for the Portland Pickles this summer, so I’m hoping to potentially bring in some more offers.” 

Clayton’s ultimate dream is playing baseball professionally. 

“That’s my dream,” Clayton said. “Obviously I have a couple backup plans if that doesn’t happen, but ideally, that has been my dream since I was a little kid.”

Gabriella Vigil

Gabriella Vigil is a writer and photographer for the Clackamas Print. She started at Clackamas Community College in fall of 2022 and is currently working towards her Associates of Science (transfer degree). In her free time, she enjoys shopping and cheering on her favorite NFL Team, the Philadelphia Eagles.

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