Aug. 19, 2006
Sherard Clinkscales – a former standout pitcher at Purdue and later one of the top prospects in the Kansas City Royals organization before spending the past 10 years in Major League scouting with the Braves and Devil Rays – recently joined the Notre Dame baseball staff, as the team’s second assistant coach. Clinkscales will serve as the program’s pitching coach while assisting head coach Dave Schrage and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Scott Lawler with the Irish recruiting efforts.
(Note: several quotes from Schrage and Clinkscales follow below – also check back later tonight for a link to full Q&A sessions with both coaches.)
Notre Dame’s complete coaching staff now includes (from left) Scott Lawler, John Fitzgerald, Dave Schrage and Sherard Clinkscales (photo by Pete LaFleur).
Clinckscales – who set several strikeout records at Purdue – was the 31st overall pick in the 1992 Major League draft, going to the Royals via a “sandwich pick” as one of the compensatory selections between the first and second round. The Royals also drafted future big-leaguers Michael Tucker, Jim Pittsley, Johnny Damon and Jon Lieber all within the first 44 picks of the 1992 draft. Injuries cut short Clinkscale’s professional playing career but he parlayed his connections within pro ball into landing a position with the Atlanta Braves, as an area scouting supervisor from 1997-99. The Indianapolis native later held the position of assistant director of scouting with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1999-2001) before returning to the Braves, first as an area scouting supervisor (2001-05) before being promoted to the position of professional scout, during 2005-06.
Schrage also recently completed his staff with the addition of volunteer assistant coach John Fitzgerald, who served the past three seasons as the head coach at Illinois Tech. Fitzgerald – who fills the role previously held by John Gumpf (now head coach at nearby St. Joseph’s High School) – will oversee the baseball program’s camp program and annual preseason Opening Night Dinner, also assisting in the coaching of the outfielders, catchers and pitchers.
In addition to his role as pitching coach and assisting with recruiting, Clinkscales will oversee the baseball program’s student welfare operation, encompassing community service activities and academic progress.
“Sherard brings a unique perspective through his involvement in professional baseball and his background here in the Midwest,” says Schrage. “He is a great fit with Notre Dame, in terms of his outgoing and energetic personality, and has a tremendous amount of contacts throughout the country. Being in the Braves organization and being around Leo Mazzone, Sherard has some of the same pitching philosophies and there were things he said that were very unique – things I had not heard before and that I really liked.
“We opened up the search and looked seriously at 10 candidates with a wide variety of experience and qualities. Sherard just rose to the top in terms of his personality and why he wants to go into college coaching. He truly believes in all the good things in college athletics – including the academic standards at Notre Dame. It really came out what a caring individual he is, in terms of how he wants to develop his pitching staff as total student-athletes.
“Sherard had some great references – Dayton Moore, the GM of the Royals, and John Schuerholz from the Braves. He worked for Vince Naimoli, a Notre Dame graduate, in Tampa. Those are people whose opinions you are going to respect and they all gave great reports on Sherard, not only about his potential ability as a coach but also his work ethic and the type of person he is.”
The son of former minor-league baseball player Lester Clinkscales – a lefthanded pitcher who reached the triple-A Indianapolis Indians during an 11-year career in the White Sox organization – the younger Clinkscales grew up in the Indianapolis area as a standout baseball and basketball player. He was an all-county and honorable mention all-state pitcher at Brebeuf Jesuit High School while also serving as an all-county point guard for the Brebeuf Jesuit basketball team that beat powerhouse Pike in the 1989 sectionals before losing on a last-second shot to a Lawrence North team led by future University of North Carolina standout Eric Montrose. His teammates at Brebeuf Jesuit included another eventual NBA player, Alan Henderson.
Sherard Clinkscales was the 31st overall pick in the 1992 Major League draft, after completing a strong season on the mound for Purdue during his junior season.
Clinkscales later was a scholarship baseball player at Purdue for three seasons while also playing for Gene Keady’s 1989-90 basketball team, as an invited walk-on (he turned down full scholarship offers from several D-I basketball schools). His breakout season on the diamond came as a junior in 1992, earning ABCA all-region and first team all-Big Ten Conference honors while leading longtime Boilermakers head coach Dave Alexander’s squad in ERA (2.34), strikeouts (87), victories (7), complete games (9) and innings pitched (80.2). Clinkscales earlier was invited to attend tryouts in Homestead, Fla., for the 1991 United States Olympic team.
After being selected by the Royals, Clinkscales went on to play on the single-A level with the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds and the Rockford (Ill.) Royals. He ultimately was released by the Royals organization in 1995 and was picked up by the Chicago Cubs before opting to end his playing career. During his first two years in pro ball, Clinkscales returned to Purdue and completed his undergraduate requirements before graduating in 1994 with a degree in history.
Clinkscales was working at Butler University in the fall of 1996, serving within the athletic department in the areas of academic support and game management, when he received a call from Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Dean Taylor. The Braves were gauging his interest in joining their scouting department and Clinkscales ultimately interviewed with the GM Schuerholz and director of scouting Paul Snyder – a legend in the scouting community and member of the Braves Hall of Fame – before being “offered a job on the spot.” He first served as an area scouting supervisor during 1997-98 in the mid-Atlantic region, covering Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The following year (1998-99), Clinkscales held the same title within the Midwest region, which included Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and North and South Dakota.
Sherard Clinkscales was part of a 1992 Royals draft class that included Michael Tucker, Jim Pittsley, Johnny Damon and Jon Lieber (plus Clinkscales) all taken within the first 44 overall picks.
In his position as the Braves mid-Atlantic area scouting supervisor, Clinkscales replaced Moore – who has since moved up the ranks to becoming assistant GM for the Braves and now GM of the Kansas City Royals.
Clinkscales’ role as an area scouting supervisor involved overseeing evaluations of high school and college players, with a group of associate scouts reporting directly to him. He also handled scouting an opposing big-league club at the end of each summer, typically breaking down teams such as the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians or Kansas City Royals.
Clinkscales first crossed paths with Schrage during the 1999 college season, while scouting one of his pitchers at Northern Iowa, Scott Sobkowiack. The Braves later selected Sobkowiack in the seventh round of the 1999 draft and he went on to pitch with the big-league club before seeing his career ended by elbow surgery.
The fall of 1999 saw Clinkscales take an opportunity to be the assistant director of scouting with a Tampa Bay Devil Rays franchise that was owned by Naimoli, a Notre Dame graduate. In his role with the Devil Rays, Clinkscales evaluated elite players from throughout the country while coordinating the team’s operations portion of the draft. He also handled all budgeting matters for Tampa Bay’s domestic and international scouting.
While in Tampa, Clinckscales completed a 2001 executive training program and had the opportunity to work alongside Dan Jennings, a highly-respected talent evaluator who now serves as vice-president and assistant GM of the Florida Marlins.
Clinkscales returned to the Braves in the fall of 2001 and served four years as an area scouting supervisor in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. He signed infielder Eric Campbell, a 2004 second-round pick from Fort Branch, Ind., who now is regarded as the top prospect in the Braves organization.
Most recently, Clinkscales was promoted to the position of professional scout for the Braves – with specific responsibilities to evaluate minor-league players in the Carolina League and the Midwest League (as possible trades and acquisitions). He also served as an advance scout during the 2005 playoffs, providing the Braves with a complete scouting report of a potential opponent, the Boston Red Sox. In the new role of professional scout, he reported directly to Moore and Schuerholz, with Moore recently accepting his new post on the Royals staff early in the 2006 season.
Clinkscales also was instrumental in signing pitcher Peter Moylan, a member of the Australian National Team who has reached the major-league level with the Braves.
A strong junior season earned Clinkscales his shot as a high draft pick in pro baseball.
During recent offseasons, Clinkscales worked alongside co-founder Scott McGowan with the After Sport Group, an organization that conducts workshops on various campuses in the Midwest. The After Sports Group workshops – which recently have been held at universities such as Toledo, Purdue and Butler, in addition to upcoming sessions at Wisconsin, Indiana and Northern Illinois – are open to all student-athletes at the respective schools. The sessions help student-athletes map out postgraduate plans and how best to utilize their degree in the working world, with the offerings even including special features such as mock job interviews.
“The reason that coming to coach at Notre Dame was so intriguing to me was because of Dave Schrage – he has integrity and is the type of coach I want to work for – and because Notre Dame speaks for itself when it comes to class in college athletics,” says Clinkscales. It also was as an opportunity to make a difference with young men and help them reach their goals academically, as well as their baseball pursuits. Lastly, the chance to spend more time with my family played a big part in this decision. It was a blessing that this opportunity came along.
“My job as a coach is to be a tool for a pitcher’s success, by helping him believe in his ability. I won’t try to reinvent them. A pitcher’s psyche is most important. I will share my experiences because I know a lot about success and failure. But you have to be strong mentally through all of it. I can take my experience as a player and a scout and impart knowledge on the players so they can reach their potential. I hope to instill in the players the importance of mental makeup, work ethic, conditioning and most importantly believing in their ability to be successful.
“The student-athlete is just not a term, it’s a way of life at Notre Dame and it’s the way that I was raised. Notre Dame offers the opportunity for young people not only to develop academic and professionally, but also to become quality human beings and make a difference in society. There’s no other school in the country that is going to be able to do that better than Notre Dame. I’m so indebted to baseball and want to continue to be an ambassador for the game. It’s just a privilege to be involved with the baseball program at Notre Dame.”
This post-draft photo shoot for a Topps baseball trading card had Clinkscales decked out in a good color for his current school, located just a couple hours away from both his hometown of Indianapolis and his alma mater.
Prior to his venture into the various levels of professional baseball, Clinkscales overcame a couple subpar seasons at Purdue to emerge as one of the nation’s top pitching prospects. One of the Boilermakers top starters in all three of his seasons, he compiled a 5.01 career ERA and 14-14 record in 41 appearances (36 starts), with 190 strikeouts, 173 walks and 38 more innings pitched (196) than hits allowed (158). His 14 complete games included three solo shutouts – one versus a Michigan team led by future big-leaguer Mike Matheney – and a no-hitter versus in-state rival Indiana.
Despite playing just three seasons at Purdue, Clinkscales owns the best career strikeout average (8.72 Ks/9 IP) in the Boilermakers record book, also ranking fourth in fewest hits allowed per nine innings (7.26, best since ’71), eighth in totals strikeouts (190, most among three-year players), 10th in complete games (14) and 12th in games started (36).
His 1992 season ranks among the best ever by a Purdue pitcher, tying the team records for strikeouts (87) and complete games (9) in a season while posting a 2.34 ERA that is second-best in the record book and tops in the past 40 years. His average of 9.71 strikeouts per 9.0 innings in 1992 was best in Purdue history and now ranks second all-time, while his 6.0 hits allowed per 9.0 IP are best by a Purdue pitcher since the late 1960s (sixth-best overall).
Clinkscales’ teammates at Purdue included outfielder Jermaine Allensworth, who went on to be a sandwich pick in 1993 and played in the Major Leagues with Pittsburgh, Kansas City and the New York Mets. Clinkscales remains the highest-drafted baseball player in Purdue history, as Allensworth was selected by Pittsburgh with the 34th overall pick while former Purdue pitcher Chadd Blasko was a compensatory pick (36th overall) of the Chicago Cubs in 2002.
His freshman season in 1990 included a 6.13 ERA and 4-6 record (55 Ks, 57 BB, 48 H in 61.2 IP), followed by a similar 1991 season (7.71, 3-4, 48 Ks, 58 BB, 56 H, 53.2 IP) before Clinkscales’ breakout year in 1992 that earned him the second-most votes for Big Ten pitcher of the year.
The Clinkscales family (from left): Alex, Sherard, Trisha and Tara.
During his junior season, Purdue twice faced the 1992 Notre Dame squad that featured future Major League players Craig Counsell and Chris Michalak, plus All-America outfielder Eric Danapilis, a pair of Academic All-Americans in first baseman Joe Binkiewicz and Cory Mee (now the head coach at Toledo), record-setting hitter Edwin Hartwell and an elite pitching staff comprised of David Sinnes, Tom Price, Alan Walania and Pat Leahy (plus Michalak). Purdue won a 5-4 game at Coveleski Stadium in downtown South Bend that season but the Irish took the rematch, 7-0 in West Lafayette.
Clinkscales was a member of the 1989-90 Purdue basketball team that finished as the Big Ten runner-up and lost to the Travis Mays-led Texas team in the NCAAs. His teammate and roommate on the road that season was Matt Painter, now the head coach of the Boilermakers.
Clinkscales and his wife, the former Trisha Lashan Smith (a graduate of Ball State), were married in 1995 and are the parents of a son, Alex (7), and a daughter, Tara (6).