Voice: Kalen Clemmens

Freshman Kalen Clemmens, who has been playing baseball since preschool, came to Casa with hopes of continuing his baseball career. Clemmens shares his experience with the sport and how it has impacted his life.

Emma Hughes and Jake Dietlin

Freshman Kalen Clemmens, who has been playing baseball since preschool, came to Casa with hopes of continuing his baseball career. Clemmens can’t remember a time that baseball hasn’t played a part in his life; he recounts how he became interested in the sport. 

“My dad was a scout for the Braves for a long time and he’s been in the game for as long as I can remember, basically his entire life. So I got into it because we used to watch a lot of baseball and I’ve always been around it: I kind of felt drawn to it,” said Clemmens.

Clemmens and his team of thirteen players and two coaches went to the Little League World Series in the summer of 2019. This national tournament, which has been held annually in Williamsport, Pennsylvania since 1947, attracts the country’s finest players. In the initial stage, the best players in any given league must face off in a district tournament; those victorious progress on to the regional tournament. There are five Little League regions in the United States and Clemmens played in the west regional tournament in Nogales, Arizona. After sleepless nights and vigorous excitement, Clemmons, who was on the winning team at the west regional tournament, finally punched his ticket to Williamsport. 

“The year before we qualified, we were one game away from going [to the Floyd World Series]. It then became our goal to make it there. The following year, we didn’t think we were very good at first, until we started winning games, like a lot of games. As soon as we won the NorCal tournament in Stockton it started to feel like maybe this can go somewhere,” said Clemmens.

As Clemmons grew as a player, the sport evolved into more than just a fun game with friends; it became a sport of tactic, skill, strategy.

“Since I have been doing Little League, I’ve been exposed to more tournaments and more people. I’ve kind of taken the sport more seriously than I have been in a long time. You have to keep your composure, and have a good mindset. When you’re playing around a lot of people you know, you can act a certain way; but when you’re going out and you’re playing unfamiliar teams, you have to be more professional. You have to be respectful,” said Clemmons.

Not only is baseball a sport that revolves around winning, but it also allows players to create lifelong friendships and memories. 

“I’ve known most of these kids for a long time. I have been in leagues with them, I’ve been best friends with a couple of them, I’ve gone to tournaments with a couple of them. In Arizona, we got hotel rooms with just kids. So I was with one of my best friends, Phillip for like two weeks in a row. So that was really cool. That’s where it started feeling like we’re actually doing something special,” said Clemmens.

Despite Clemmens’ great success in his Little League baseball career, COVID-19 has altered his spring season baseball plans. Clemmens was able to play six league games before his season was ultimately cancelled. After a two month break, his coach obtained a permit for Petaluma’s Prince Park, where his team practiced a few times a week. However, the tournaments that typically occurred every other weekend ended, forcing Clemmens to find a new league in Santa Rosa that still allowed games. Clemmens notes COVID-19’s dramatic effects on the sport.

“Baseball is definitely a lot different now because you can’t do as many things. You can’t play games because certain counties don’t want games going on, like Sonoma County doesn’t really want games at all. But others, like Napa county and the East Bay, they don’t mind as long as you have masks on hand and you’re somewhat socially distant. Other than that, the games themselves haven’t really been affected that much. It’s just regular baseball: you can’t play baseball any differently,” said Clemmens.

For Clemmons, the pandemic offers a whole new perspective on the sport.

“I find myself watching a lot more baseball on TV just to feel like I’m still playing and not missing time. I appreciate the sport a lot more,” said Clemmens.

With baseball being a constant in Clemmens’ life, he looks forward to his future in the sport. After joining Little League and attending the Little League World Series, he acquired many new memories and special experiences with his team that he will forever cherish. Baseball has taught him to be a more patient and thoughtful player and individual who continuously strives for improvement. Clemmens aspires to achieve his lifelong goal of playing baseball in college. Although COVID-19 opposes his current baseball plans, he remains hopeful for his future in the sport.