Baseball Player of the Year

Bonneville senior Lincoln Clayton throws a pitch during a game against rival Hillcrest on April 15. Clayton, a BYU commit, had a pair of no-hitters for the Bees, and is the Post Register’s 2014 Baseball Player of the Year.

“Richie. Richie! Get up here. He’s up.”

Richie, a 9-year-old fan of Blackfoot High School baseball, climbed from his playplace beneath the bleachers to sit by his Grandma.

No. 42 was digging in at the plate, and this is what Richie came to see — Lincoln Clayton, leading off for the two-time defending state champion Bonneville Bees.

Sure enough, Clayton got on, got over and came home, as advertised.

By the time Clayton was exchanging fist bumps with his teammates in the first base dugout, Richie was back under the bleachers, playing with ants on a stick.

Such is the gravitational effect of Lincoln Clayton — a force of nature strong enough to draw a grade school boy away from a sticky mess beneath the bleachers for five full minutes.

A force that earned Clayton the title 2014 Post Register All Area Baseball Player of the Year for the second time in three seasons at Bonneville.

“When you go to see the Angels, you go to see Mike Trout,” Bonneville coach and former minor leaguer pitcher Joldy Watts said. “People are drawn to that kind of player that is different, and Lincoln is that guy who is different. Special.”

Watts describes Clayton as that very rare five-tool player who can hit for average, hit for power, run, play defense and throw.

And boy-oh-boy can Lincoln throw.

In perhaps his best game of the season against 5A state qualifier Madison on April 8, Clayton showed off those five tools, going 3 for 3 with a double, triple, homer and four RBIs, finishing a single — a single — short of the cycle.

Oh, and he also struck out 12 over five innings in a lights-out no-hitter. That is to say, Bonneville made 15 outs on the day. All but three were strikeouts.

“I’ve never had another player like Lincoln,” Watts said. “The dude can flat out hit, and he’s exciting to watch on the mound, too. Baseball has changed, especially at the collegiate and professional level. That athletic guy is so much more valuable today.”

Clayton is spending his summer with the Utah Marshalls, the same program that produced Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Chicago White Sox first round pick Keenyn Walker, and second-round picks Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Marcus Littlewood (Mariners).

Clayton is taking his five tools to BYU in the spring of 2015, where he hopes to build on his low 90s fastball in a reserve pitching role.

“They want to use me pitching first, then on the middle infield and some hitting,” Clayton said. “Mainly they want me to come in and close things out.”

When Clayton says “middle infield,” he doesn’t just mean at shortstop or second base. As the best defensive pitcher in coach Watts’ memory, Clayton can take care of things up the middle, as well as dink attempts on the baselines.

“If we were facing a team we knew was going to bunt a lot, like a Twin Falls, Lincoln got that start,” Watts said. “He is able to field his position as well as any other pitcher I’ve seen, taking away sure bunt singles to get those guys out.”

Leaving Idaho Falls for the blue grass of Provo, Utah, is bittersweet for Clayton, as was the decision to play up a level with the Marshalls. His favorite thing about baseball isn’t hitting or pitching or robbing singles in the 5.5 hole.

His favorite thing about baseball, he said, are the memories and friendships he has built with teammates, and coach Watts, over the years.

“We’re not going to have another Lincoln Clayton, and it’s been a great four years,” Watts said. “It was a pleasure to watch, and he’s a special kid who can do great things in college and even beyond that.”

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