Jeannette baseball team will rely on heart, not numbers

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Wednesday, March 16, 2022 | 10:31 PM


When he was a baseball player at Jeannette — and a fine one at that — Marcus Clarkson drove more than a few pitches into the atmosphere at the city’s Clarkson Field.

No, it is not named after Jeannette baseball coach Marcus Clarkson, but rather for his great-uncle, James “Buster” Clarkson, the former Negro National League star with the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

“He drove a pitch over the left-field fence, considered a noteworthy feat even for the professionals … who played at the same ballpark,” former Jeannette Area Historical Society president John Howard said of Buster Clarkson’s exploits, detailed in a May 2012 story in the Tribune-Review.

Following a dismal 2-13 season a year ago and just four years removed from a WPIAL Class 2A championship, Marcus Clarkson enters his 19th year at Jeannette, hoping his Jayhawks can pull together and return the program’s fortunes to yesteryear.

“We have 14 guys. Most of them were here last year,” Clarkson said. “A lot of these guys played a lot of innings as freshmen, and they all came back older and stronger. At the same time, half the guys are inexperienced. We’re trying to get it all to mesh, but we really can’t do some of the things that we used to do.”

When Clarkson wrapped practice Wednesday at Clarkson Field, he gathered his players and told them to keep scrapping, keep working.

“It’ll be tough to play intersquad games, which I really like doing,” Clarkson said. “We never know how many guys we’ll have at practice.”

Some are involved for now in other spring activities at the school that, at times, conflict with the the Jayhawks’ schedule, he said. But it doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm.

“Despite the numbers,” Clarkson said, “I really like the group of players we have. It’s going to be tough, but I expect us to compete, because … the players that came out will give us 100%.”

Maybe it’s Marcus Clarkson’s motivational tone that has their attention.

Perhaps Buster Clarkson’s spirit may be motivating these Jayhawks, who surely notice the monument outside the fences of the field, erected in his memory.

“Could be,” Marcus Clarkson said with a grin.

Senior Tyler Horn is Jeannette’s unquestioned leader, a three-sport athlete and a versatile baseball player on whom Clarkson said he’ll rely heavily for leadership and performance.

“He’s been here since he was a freshman,” Clarkson said. “He’s a good kid. He’s a Jeannette kid. We’ll lean on him for a lot. He can play in the infield, the outfield — he’ll probably be our catcher in most games.

“I’m telling you right now, I could put him at any position and he would perform.”

Marcus Clarkson, an outfielder, played at the junior college level at Potomac State College and Westmoreland County Community College and continues to play in various area adult leagues. His late father, by the same name, played at Mansfield University.

He wants his players to take in the history of the city and its field, which is situated in the West Jeannette neighborhood.

“We do understand we’re a small community,” Clarkson said.

He’s also counting on production from a number of others, including a load of sophomores — pitcher/infielder/outfielder Michael Mason, infielder Brayden Luttner, Gavin Holemeyer, pitcher/first baseman Nick Radigan, Hunter Blazowich and pitcher/outfielder Isaiah Mallich.

“A lot of these guys can play multiple positions,” Clarkson said. “A lot of them have been playing for a summer team.”

Holemeyer returns with the team’s top batting average from last season. Radigan, a left-handed batter, will be tempted to challenge Clarkson Field’s short 280-foot right-field fence.

“Be smart now,” Clarkson cautioned. “You’d be surprised how many home runs aren’t hit here.”

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