When Mount St. Joseph baseball coach Dave Norton finally got the chance to see Steve Clevenger play in a major league uniform, he was given a reminder of the kind of player he coached years before.
Clevenger -- a 2004 graduate of Mount St. Joseph who raised in Glen Burnie and now returning home after being acquired by the Orioles in Tuesday’s trade with the Chicago Cubs -- was behind the plate at Nationals Park on Sept. 12 when his pitcher nearly struck Bryce Harper in the hip. Norton watched from the stands as Clevenger went out of his stance to step in front of an upset Harper, who was walking toward the mound with a scowl.
The dugouts cleared and Clevenger was involved in a scuffle that resulted in him and three other being ejected.
Norton laughed recalling the phone call he had with an upset Clevenger later that night.
“That’s just the way he is. He’s a competitor,” Norton said. “He’s gonna do what he needs to do as a baseball player whether it’s an individual thing or a team thing.”
Norton came out of a dentist appointment Tuesday afternoon to see multiple missed calls and texts regarding the trade, which involved the Orioles receiving right-handed pitcher Scott Feldman as well for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop. Norton’s daughter called excitedly to tell him Clevenger, 27, was returning home.
Clevenger will start out at the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate in Norfolk.
”He’s a great kid. I’ve always been very close to him," Norton said. "It’s terrific. I feel like a father. I’m proud.”
Norton still keeps a picture of he and Clevenger from the 2004 MIAA A Conference championship win in Clevenger’s senior year.
“There was no way we were gonna lose because [we had] him,” Norton said.
Norton praised Clevenger’s competitiveness.
“Steve has always been a competitor,” Norton said. “He didn’t like to lose, that was just part of his nature.”
A basketball player at Mount St. Joseph as well, Clevenger became Norton's starting shortstop as a sophomore. Norton has kept in touch with Clevenger all throughout his career, from his time at Southeastern Louisiana until the program was cut to his time at Chipola College in Florida, where he was drafted out of by the Cubs in the seventh round of the draft in 2006.
Hitting left-handed, Clevenger has recorded a .310/.372/.429 batting line in eight minor league seasons and a .199/.262/.275 in 79 major league games.
“Steve, you know, he’s been through a lot, he really has,” Norton said.
“He works so hard just to get to be playing professional baseball,” he added. “But he’s kept plugging away at it.”
Norton called him a “Baltimore player,” referring to “hard-nosed types of kids who work hard to accomplish things.”
“If you want somebody who’s gonna go out there and battle and battle and battle and not give up, he’s the kind of kid that you want,” Norton said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun