Height is nice, but it isn’t everything.
Tyrese Clayborne may know that better than just about anyone. Though short in stature, Clayborne brings a great deal of heart and desire — not to mention talent — with him onto the baseball diamond. That counts for a lot.
“Most scouts want size, but then you have [José] Altuve,” the Houston Astros second baseman, said Bill Ianniciello, coach of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League’s North Fork Ospreys. “… If you can play, you can play. Some of the smallest guys have the biggest hearts.”
Ianniciello counts Clayborne, his second baseman, among them.
At 5 feet, 3 inches and 155 pounds, Clayborne is the shortest player listed on any of the HCBL’s seven rosters. Does it matter?
“Not at all,” Clayborne said. “I could be 5-2 and a guy could be 6-6, and he can’t hit a fastball and I can.”
And he can hit. Through Saturday, Clayborne led the Ospreys with a .333 batting average. That goes with six RBIs and eight runs scored. He’s 4-for-6 on stolen-base attempts.
That production is welcomed by a team that has had its struggles offensively in this young season.
“With not too many guys hitting, he’s been one of the ones that has been hitting,” said Ianniciello.
Clayborne, a Houston product who will enter his sophomore season at Lamar University in Texas, has something of a chip on his shoulder. He had only 13 at-bats his freshman season at Lamar, playing in 14 games and starting three.
Now, he said, he wants to prove himself.
“I was coming off a lot of anger and frustration, so I have to get it all out,” he said. “I’ve been eager to play the whole spring. I haven’t played a lot.”
Clayborne’s early-season success in the batter’s box for the Ospreys may be attributed in part to his simple hitting philosophy.
“I’m not a person to take many pitches,” he said. “If I see a strike and it’s my pitch, I’m going to swing.”
Batting primarily first or second in the order, he has four walks from 12 games.
“He wants to hit,” Ianniciello said. “He’s not looking to walk. I’d like to see him find a little balance and take some pitches because the more he’s on base, the better for us. At the same time, I don’t want to take his aggressiveness away, I just want to see him swing.”
Clayborne, who politely peppers his interview answers with, “Yes, sir,” said he is using the summer league to prepare for his sophomore season. “I’m trying to do everything I can and come back home with the best numbers I can,” he said.
Clayborne has been charged with six errors in 12 games. He said he wants to improve his game on both sides of the plate. In an 11-4 win over the Riverhead Tomcats Saturday night at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic, Clayborne showed he can do things with his glove, too. He used every inch of his height to leap up and snag a sixth-inning liner struck by Xavier Vargas.
“He wants the ball,” Ianniciello said. “He made a couple of good plays on pop-ups [where] he went a long way. He’s made a couple of miscues, but overall he’s played well.”
Clayborne’s dream is to one day play pro ball.
“That’s really what I’m working towards,” he said. “I’m not doing this just for fun. Well, it’s fun, of course, but I honestly think it can be my way of life. I want it to be my way of life, my career.”
That’s a tall order, but perhaps not too tall for the shortest player in the league.
Photo caption: North Fork second baseman Tyrese Clayborne, listed at 5 feet, 3 inches and 155 pounds, has come up big for the Ospreys, leading the team with a .333 batting average. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)