High School Notebook: Prep basketball beckons former MLB pitcher

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Not all that long ago, Matt Clement was pitching in the Major League Baseball playoffs and was selected to the all-star game. Come this December, there is a chance he might be a head coach of a WPIAL basketball team.

Clement has applied for the vacant head basketball coach's position at Butler High School.

A 34-year-old former major-league pitcher wanting to coach high school basketball might sound strange. But not if you know Clement and his background.

He was a talented basketball player at Butler High School in the early 1990s. Even during his nine seasons in the majors (1998-2006), he used to talk about the desire to coach high school basketball, especially at his alma mater. The Butler school board opened Joe Lewandowski's position a few months ago.

Clement pitched with the San Diego Padres, Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. He pitched in three playoff games and was selected to the 2005 American League all-star team while with the Red Sox.

Clement's interest in the Butler job is sincere. He was reluctant to talk about his situation out of respect to other candidates and because he doesn't want to sound as if he is campaigning publicly for the job. But he did have one comment.

"I'm excited to just have the possible opportunity to be the head coach," Clement said. "Coaching high school basketball is something I have a tremendous passion for. This would be a way I can stay involved in the community and maybe lead kids in this district through teaching them the game of basketball, as well as life lessons and experiences I've been lucky enough to have."

Clement is no stranger to Butler basketball. He always has attended some Butler basketball games in the offseason. He coached youth basketball in the district the past few years. He was a pretty fair player as a senior at Butler. A 6-foot-3 guard, he was recruited for basketball by Pitt, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Lafayette and Bucknell.

Clement is one of Butler's favorite sons. He lives in Butler with his wife, Heather, his former high school sweetheart. The couple has three sons.

Right shoulder problems forced Clement to end his baseball career earlier than he would have liked, and he retired in April. As a player -- baseball and basketball -- Clement was always known as an extremely hard worker who was driven to succeed. He doesn't have much experience as a basketball coach, but you can bet he would bring passion to the job.

Barton leads turnaround

South Fayette baseball coach James Barton says a lot of people in South Fayette don't care for him because he's a self-described "tough coach" who doesn't talk to parents. But if you're a South Fayette fan, you have to like what Barton has done to the program.

Before he took over last season, South Fayette hadn't been to the WPIAL playoffs for nine years. The Lions made it last year. This season, South Fayette made it to the WPIAL semifinals, and now the Lions are in the PIAA Class AA semifinals. They play Mount Union tomorrow afternoon.

"I know I'm not the easiest-going person in the world," said Barton, 44. "Some people like me, but I'm not well-liked by a lot of people. But I'm not going to listen to parents and they are not going to talk to me. I'm going to win the way I want to win, and I'll lose the way I want to lose."

While South Fayette has been successful this season, Barton believes his team can be just as good next year. One of the reasons is Dillon Haviland, a 6-3 junior left-handed pitcher who has made a verbal commitment to Duke.

"I'm just happy for what is going on for these kids," Barton said. "I'm not some great coach. I'm just reaping the benefits of these kids' talent. They are reaping the benefit of my knowledge."

Draft talk

Don't look for any WPIAL baseball players to be taken high in the Major League Baseball draft that starts Tuesday and goes through Thursday. In fact, it's entirely possible no district high school players will go in the first 20 rounds or so.

While a number of WPIAL players are headed to Division I colleges, it's not a good year for players with draft potential. It's not a good year overall in Pennsylvania. Baseball America magazine says "it's the worst Pennsylvania haul [of players] this decade."

Baseball America has only one Pennsylvania player -- college or high school -- rated among the top 200 players. He is Renny Parthemore, a 6-foot-5 pitcher from Cedar Cliff High near Harrisburg. Baseball America believes he could go in the top four rounds, "but maybe no one else [from Pennsylvania] in the top 12 rounds."

It was thought at one time that Seton-LaSalle pitcher Derek Law might have a chance to go in the top 15 rounds. But he wasn't as dominant as many thought he might be this season.

South Park outfielder Tarran Senay might get drafted, but probably not high enough to bypass a career at North Carolina State.

Riverview outfielder Gus Benusa opened the eyes of some scouts with a big senior season and coach Rich Griser believes Benusa has a decent chance of being drafted.

Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.


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