Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Brookwood grad Clayton Cain, who played college baseball at Georgia and Valdosta State, has joined The HittersBox in Duluth as a coach and instructor.
Clayton Cain, 24, is an instructor and coach at The Hitter'sBox in Duluth and also works in ticket sales and promotions with the Sunbelt Baseball League. The 2005 Brookwood grad played college baseball at Georgia and Valdosta State, and spent the 2010-11 school year as a graduate assistant at Georgia State.
Cain, who plans to begin law school next year with the goal of being a baseball agent, got married to former Parkview basketball standout Sara Kate Greene last October.
In this installment of "Getting to Know...", Cain talks with sports editor Will Hammock about becoming a sports agent, the best pitcher he's ever faced and his wife's golf game.
WH: How excited are you to be involved with baseball again as an instructor and coach? Do you like it at The HittersBox?
CC: When Jasha (Balcom) called me, I had already been talking to Michael McRee, we grew up playing together. I told him if anything opens up at HittersBox let me know because I love teaching the game and I love being around it. So Jasha called me up and he said they were starting some travel ball teams and looking for more instructors. I was ecstatic right away. Getting a chance to work with local kids and being able to pass on what I've learned over the years is extremely rewarding. Especially to see kids progress from little league to 13-14 travel ball to high school. That will be the most exciting part, seeing them progress.
WH: What coaches influenced you the most?
CC: Coach Jones, Coach Doug Jones at Mill Creek. Coach (Rick) Howard at Brookwood. My two coaches at Valdosta were two of the biggest influences I ever had other than my father and my grandfather. Coach Todd Guilliams down there is one of the biggest influences in my life. To see the way he taught hitting and to see his passion for baseball, it's unreal. I've never seen anything like it. The time he spends with you, working on every little detail if you're in a slump. He'll spend hours with you making sure you're comfortable. He's the one who really made me want to get into teaching and teaching hitting.
WH: Do you see yourself staying in baseball for a long time?
CC: Baseball's been my life for 20-something years now and I don't see myself getting out of it any time. I'm going the law school route but that is all about helping me become a baseball agent. Even if I'm not necessarily in a coaching role, I still want to be around the game. I'm comfortable around the game. I know the game. I know the players. I know the personalities. I don't see myself getting away from that any time soon.
WH: What interested you in becoming a sports agent? Have you wanted to do that for a long time?
CC: No, not really. About a year or so. I've been kind of weighing what path to go down. Being in grad school, you see all these people coming back to school that have gone down different paths and they've hit a roadblock, so they're trying to further their education. So I was thinking, what can I do around baseball and be happy what I'm doing? It just kind of hit me. What about an agent? My buddies who are playing pro ball like Nathan Moreau, me and him are really close, we've been talking. Every now and then I'd ask, what does your agent do for you? What's his role? I talked to Gordon (Beckham) a little bit. The more information I gathered, the more it sounded like a cool gig. It's something I'd enjoy doing and I'd get to be around baseball and be able to travel. I made up my mind then. This is what I'm going to work toward.
WH: What's it like not playing?
CC: It's hard, man. It's hard. Especially when I was a grad assistant this past year at Georgia State, being at practice in plain clothes. It was tough. The whole competition part of it. Not being able to compete. Yeah, you're around it, but it's different. You don't have that uniform on. You can't go out there with runners on second and third in the ninth inning and knock in the winning run. You can't control that. It's been extremely tough for me. When I finished playing at Valdosta State (in 2010), I was still weighing possible options of playing independent ball. I had offers to play in the Frontier League and it was tough to say no. I decided it was time to move on. I just got married and it was time to put baseball behind me playing-wise. It's still hard though. I'd love to be out there playing. I'd love to get in the batter's box and hit again. It's still tough. I think it's going to be tough forever not playing. But that's life. That's just how it is.
WH: What's the best game you ever played?
CC: The conference championship game of the conference tournament last year. We were playing the No. 1 team in the nation. We beat them earlier in the tournament so they had to beat us twice to win the championship. They beat us the first game by like 12 runs. The second game we came back and I was 5-for-6 with two home runs, three doubles and eight RBIs. That game will always be the most memorable game. Everything was clicking. That will always be the top memory. Not just the numbers, but the situation of being in the conference championship game and being able to put a ring on my teammates' fingers.
WH: Growing up around here, who was the toughest pitcher you faced in high school?
CC: I know Nathan Moreau will want me to say him. Playing for four years on the varsity, I saw some intimidating pitching. My freshman year I faced Matt Capps in the third game of my high school career. He's putting it up there at 95. My second at-bat against him, he hit me in the elbow. I thought I was never going to play baseball again. I was like, I'm done. Miers Quigley from Roswell was the real deal. Tim Gustafson was a stud. Nathan Moreau, his senior year, was one of the best pitchers I've faced. Playing in the region we did, you faced guys day in and day out that a lot of college teams don't face on a weekly basis.
WH: I know you're a baseball guy, but what did high school football mean to you?
CC: It meant a lot. It probably taught me more than baseball from a life standpoint, from competition to teamwork to work ethic. Just being in that atmosphere, going through two-a-days, early morning workouts, team outings like that lake outing we do every year at Brookwood. Building relationships like that, you can't get that in any other sport. In football, you're beating up on each other every single day. High school football builds character and work ethic more than any other sport, just because of the daily grind you put in with your coaches and teammates.
WH: What was your favorite football game?
CC: Sophomore year when we played Parkview in the state championship in 2002 was pretty memorable, even though we got beat pretty bad. That whole season was extremely memorable. The game in the Dome against Camden when we scored the late touchdown that put us in the championship game. That game against Cherokee when we were down 24 or 28 in the second half and came back. And then the game junior year when we snapped Parkview's 46-game winning streak. That was probably the most memorable just because everything that was on the line, the atmosphere and winning the game and everything that came with it. The joy after the game, I'll never forget that.
WH: Did you know (your wife) Sara Kate (Greene) back then?
CC: I didn't. I knew who she was and I knew she was a stud basketball player at Parkview. But we never met until we both got to Georgia.
WH: How did you two get together?
CC: We lived in the athletic dorms and she was in the building across from me. Being a college athlete, you always have friends who are college athletes kind of in the same social group. A couple of my friends were friends with a couple of her roommates who were Gym Dogs gymnasts. I was over there and we kind of hit it off. We found out the Brookwood-Parkview thing. It was just kind of something that slowly formed and we dated all through college. I met her December of my freshman year and she's the only girl I dated throughout college and we got married right when I got done.
WH: Do you remember your first date?
CC: Yeah, I do. And she's going to kill me. It was actually with my parents. We had been dating for a month or two but I had never taken her on an official date. We had always been hanging out with friends, eating with friends. We'd always been with other people when we were together. So I finally asked her if she wanted to do something one night, just me and her. Right when we were about to go my dad called and said, 'We're coming up. You want to go to dinner?' I asked her if she minded and she said not at all. So our first date was a double date with my parents. She never lets me forget that.
WH: Who's the best athlete of you two?
CC: I am. No doubt. I will say that she has beat me in basketball before. We played a couple of times.
WH: What did she play, basketball and tennis?
CC: She played basketball, tennis, track, softball for a couple of years. She can do it all. A couple of years ago, she had never played golf before. And me and her brother Andrew were going to play golf and we asked her if she wanted to come. We thought she'd say no and just go to the beach. She's not really playing, but on her third hole we're shanking balls and slicing balls and she hits a drive straight down the middle. She hits another shot probably within 10 feet of the cup and gets up there and knocks it in for birdie on her third hole ever playing golf. We were like, 'You're not playing the rest of the day.'
WH: Does she still play?
CC: Every now and then. She says it's too boring.
WH: Did she tell you how she bloodied herself on the state championship trophy (as Parkview celebrated winning state)?
CC: I always give her a hard time about that. If you look, she has a huge scar on her shin from it.
WH: It was a pretty nasty cut.
CC: The way she tells it, all her friends say it, too, all her friends are jumping around and celebrating and she's turning white from losing blood.
WH: She did some damage to the trophy, too.
CC: Yeah, she broke the trophy. I always give her a hard time about it when I see the scar. I'll say, 'What's that from?' And then she'll come back with 'At least I have a state championship.' That usually ends the conversation right there.