Rode: Cleary Simpson excited to keep working on game

In this day and age when home runs are the norm, Cleary Simpson isn’t worried about that.

The 17-year-old Red Deer Carstar Braves infielder looks at himself as a contact, line-drive hitter and he does it to perfection.

“I was always smaller and learned early on to just compete and be a contact hitter,” said the five-foot-10, 150-pound Simpson. “Now that I’m getting a little bigger some of that (power) will hopefully come along.”

Simpson will take his Grade 12 at St. Joe’s High School in Red Deer and compete for the baseball academy under head instructor Jason Chatwood, where he expects to get more time in the weight room.

“I should add some strength for sure.”

Overall Cleary is looking forward to working on his game during the winter months.

“I’m excited about that and it will helps for sure. I’ve talked with Jason and he’s already helped me a lot. It’s going to be fun getting a chance to play all year.”

Cleary has all the tools to be a solid on-base, top-of-the-order hitter.

He’s batting .389 prior to Wednesday’s doubleheader, which is third on the team. He leads the Braves with 21 hits, 19 singles, 11 walks and 13 stolen bases.

He has a .500 on base percentage and a .926 OPS (on base plus slugging). Like the majority of good athletes he’s also took the mound.

“Mainly when I’m needed,” he said.

He’s only pitched 4.1 innings but has a 1-1 record and a 2.08 ERA.

Cleary lives out by Pine Lake and attended school in Elnora and Delburne. However, his baseball took him to Trochu and then Innisfail and Red Deer.

“My grandparents on my mom’s side got me interested in the game and I started playing in Trochu,” he explaiend. “I played my second year of bantam AAA in Red Deer and my first year of midget in Innisfail, then back here for AAA the last two years.”

He played high school sports and some hockey.

“I played hockey until bantam and then just concentrated on baseball,” he said.

This year could be his final season with the Braves, although teams are allowed to use a couple overage players during their regular season, and Simpson may look at that.

However, there are other options such as the Innisfail Merchants junior program and the Red Deer Riggers, who are adding more and more younger players to their roster.

“The Riggers and Merchants are something I’ll look at,” he said. “Both are good programs with a lot of good players.”

One thing is for certain he wants to take his game to the next level.

“I would like to get a college scholarship, but nothing so far,” he said. “I think this winter working with Jason at St. Joe’s will help. He has a lot of connections. I think that’s when it will happen.”

While he has solid offensive stats, Simpson considers himself more of a defensive player.

“I think my main strength is my defence,” he said. “I’m playing mainly second base but hoping to get more reps at shortstop with St. Joe’s.”

Simpson helped the Braves earn a berth in the A side of the Norwest Midget AAA Baseball League this season as they prepare to host the Western Canadian championships Aug. 16-18 at Great Chief Park.

“Being on the A side was big for us as we got to face good arms every game. That seems to be the separating factor between the A and B divisions,” he said. “That will help us in the Westerns.

“They’ll be tough, but a lot of fun as well, especially being at home.”

The Braves will look to add several players for the Westerns as they can’t use their overage players and will likely lose at least one player to Team Alberta for the Western Canada Summer Games.

“Some holes to fill, but we have a lot of others guys who will step up,” concluded Simpson.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame member who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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