Becoming a Legend / Former East, Franklin star signs independent pro baseball contract

Sam Claycamp thought his baseball career was over.

The former Columbus East and Franklin College standout tried out for a few Major League Baseball teams after his college career ended last year, but when nothing came of it, Claycamp was ready to get on with his life.

After several months away from baseball, Claycamp found he hadn’t lost his hitting groove. Thursday night, he was rewarded with a contract from the independent Lexington Legends.

“I was pretty much almost ready to call it quits,” Claycamp said. “I started working a regular job, and a couple months ago, I stopped working, started working out again and got asked to play in an adult league. Then from there, I kind of worked out again and surprised myself a little bit. I had been out of the game for five months. I picked up a bat and swung pretty well and fielded a little bit and thought I could do that a little bit. I talked to my parents, and said, ‘This is something I think I can still do.’”

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The process went quick. Claycamp attended a tryout on Monday in Florence, Kentucky, for two Florence teams and two Lexington teams. On Thursday, he received a call from Legends manager Eddie Brooks.

By Thursday night, Claycamp was signed.

“I’ve always kind of had that in my mind that I could do it,” he said. “I just didn’t have the opportunity last year. God has his way of putting things in order, and it just kind of worked out that way.”

The Legends normally are a Class A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. But with the 2020 Minor League Baseball canceled because of COVID-19, the Legends are playing as an independent team this year.

Claycamp reports for practice on Monday morning. The first game is Aug. 1.

“I’m incredibly excited for him,” Franklin coach Lance Marshall said. “Sam was a great player. As great of a player as he is on the field, he is an even better person, leader and representative of our program and we are incredibly proud of him. He comes from a great family, and I’m glad to see him get this opportunity.”

After playing his freshman year at Dayton, Claycamp transferred to Franklin.

“I didn’t do bad as a freshman,” he said. “I didn’t get maybe as many opportunities as I would have liked, but it felt right to transfer to Franklin. It was an awesome group of guys, awesome teammates and an awesome program.”

The shortstop led the Grizzlies to two NCAA Division III Tournament appearances and was the 2019 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament MVP.

Claycamp credited Marshall and Franklin assistants Tim Miller and Tyler Rubasky.

“I think his work ethic and drive and determination have pushed him to that point,” Marshall said. “He’s certainly talented, but his drive and work ethic are certainly incomparable. He can play anywhere. He’s a terrific athlete.”

Claycamp graduated from Franklin in December with a degree in history. He had worked at Innovative Castings last summer and did internship in purchasing at Faurecia from October through March.

This spring, Claycamp was set to be an assistant coach at Columbus North, but the spring sports season was canceled. He began playing in an adult league in Indianapolis last month, playing two games before getting the call from the Legends.

“I have a batting cage in the barn and hit occasionally, and things kind of just clicked and felt better than they should,” Claycamp said. “God kind of just put things in line for me, and things worked out. The credit goes to God there. Things worked out well there with the tryout lining up. Honestly after last summer, I didn’t think I would be playing ball again.”

Now, Claycamp is hoping he can make his way up the minor league ladder to a chance at the major leagues. But he isn’t losing sight of the immediate task at hand.

“That’s everybody’s goal,” he said. “Obviously, that is a goal of mine. For now, I have to keep my head on my shoulders and keep getting better every day. I can’t take anything for granted. I can’t expect anything to be given to me. If it’s in God’s plan, it will work out, so I’m going to take it day to day and see where it goes from there.”