Green Cove Springs, FL

Clay High baseball team has high expectations for 2023 season

Tony Salazar

With the FHSAA baseball season beginning in February, the Clay High School Blue Devils have been preparing for the season in the weight room and on the track for their speed training program.
Photo byAnthony Salazar

Clay High had a successful season last year with an 18-11 record, and ending a three-year playoff drought. However, Clay High will need to reload their roster as 12 players graduated last spring. Many of those seniors started for Clay since their freshman year. Head coach Josh Persinger is up for the challenge of replenishing a roster with new faces.

“It’s that new fight, new love and these guys are ready to prove something. We had guys that graduated that are going D1, throwing 90, hitting home runs and all that and the community is like “Clay is going to have a down year,” and we utilize that as motivation to go prove everyone wrong,” said Persinger.

One of the players ready to step up this season is senior infielder FSCJ commit Aidan Hampton. Hampton has played in 46 games for the Blue Devils and has grown a lot as a player since he got on campus.

“Time has definitely flown by during my time here. I remember freshman year thinking I knew everything about the game and being humbled big time sophomore year,” said Hampton.
Photo byAnthony Salazar

Hampton also feels that he has stepped into a leadership role.

“I definitely feel like I have stepped up with other teammates. Holding younger kids and some juniors accountable for little things,” said Hampton.

The seniors on the team have high expectations for the 2023 season. Flagler pitcher commit Eli Roberts has high hopes this season due to the chemistry they have developed.
Photo byAnthony Salazar

“Definitely want to bring home a state championship. We’ve been lacking this past year. We’ve always had the talent, the team and the hard work but just never clicked. Always falling short but this year is probably one of our best teams we’ve had the most chemistry with. Most of us have been playing with or against each other since 8u,” said Roberts. “Not as much talent but I think chemistry plays a big role in bringing a state championship.

With high expectations for this season, the Blue Devils have taken a break from baseball and have been focused on getting stronger and faster.

“We shut down baseball so right now we are doing speed training and lifting, and they are working hard. The speed training is only two days a week but it’s very precise and we try to compete,” said Persinger.

With only two days a week of speed training, the team spends many of their afternoons lifting weights. Persinger has seen significant growth from his players who have invested significant time in the weight room.

“We got three guys out here that can deadlift 500 pounds and that’s not what they were doing before they came into this program. We had a kid the other day that finally hit 405. A smaller guy that his first deadlift was 160 when he was a freshman,” said Persinger.

Since Persinger took over as the head coach of the baseball team in 2015, he began to slowly incorporate weight training. Persinger believes they had a shift in weight training when the baseball team bought their own equipment during the fall of 2018.

Rather than sharing the weight room with the other athletic programs, the baseball team has all the equipment the school’s main weight room has. Baseball has pull-up bars, dumbbells, free weights, kettlebells, medicine balls and plenty of deadlift bars. Persinger said last year’s class was the first group to have their own weightlifting equipment through their entire high school career and their numbers on the field showed how effective the weight training program was.

Clay High hit 23 home runs last season, nearly doubling any other season total in the history of the program.

With a new culture dedicated to increasing strength through the weight room, it has created a sense of competition to be the team’s next leader in the weight room.

“They watched Tyler Mills pull 600 last year so there is a guy on the program that wants to be that guy," said Persinger. “They don’t realize it even though we took away the baseball, but we are training the mental side. Everything they are doing in the weight room is exactly what they are doing on the field. Instead of weights, it’s going to be a bat."

Link to the audio version of this story right here.

Comments / 0

Published by

I am a graduate of the University of North Florida with a major in communication with a focus in journalism and a minor in sports management.

Green Cove Springs, FL

More from Tony Salazar

Comments / 0