By RUDY COGGINS
PIKEVILLE – Teenage athletes are often invested in strenuous training plans and achieve success in such intense competition that it can often consume their lives.
Clay Matthews, however, is an exception.
A multi-sport athlete expected to write about the record books on the football field and the baseball diamond in 2021, he has a completely different perspective on the senior campaign in Charles B. Aycock.
Matthews is also a father.
No matter how the day went in the classroom or in the skills development sessions during this COVID pandemic, his world changes when he returns home.
That’s when he immediately folds his arms around her bright eyes – Leighton Brie Matthews.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s going to change my life, and I’m going to love her to death,” Matthews said. “Well, here I am, and that’s exactly what they said. Coming home every day, seeing her smile, holding her, it takes all off your shoulders when you’ve had a bad day.
“It just makes me hungrier.”
Hungry to fulfill a lifelong dream and continue a family tradition.
One of the most talented players to wear a CBA uniform, Matthews signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Mount Olive in 2022.
His father, Brad, played for Mount Olive in the 1990s.
Bred’s cousin, Derek, also wore the Trojans’ green.
“It’s pretty cool,” Matthews said. “Walk around [campus], about halfway through I thought, ‘yes this is definitely the right place for me to be.’
“I just think it’s good for me … the best choice because I’m close to home.”
Before the coronavirus abruptly discontinued high school last year, Matthews’ stroke average hovered above 0.400. He hopes to find that magic again next spring and build on some strong career numbers.
Matthews has scored 31 runs, collected 39 hits and knocked in 30 RBIs during his 48-player senior career. He hits a sharp .312 on the dish with just 21 strikes in 159 official record appearances.
A field stopper with a short stop, he has posted a .940 field percentage on defense.
“I think UMO is perfect for Clay,” said CBA head coach Allen Thomas. “He has a chance to go there and have a great career.”
During his campus with UMO alum and pitch coach Casey Hodges, Matthews learned about campus life, the importance of academics and the quality of athletes who have played in the program.
The daily grind – a family, academics, athletics – will appear as a bigger challenge when he leaves the CBA.
“I think I need to be a real leader, even as a freshman,” Matthews said. “I will try to push everyone. If I go out there and play, listen to everything they say and do the things they tell me in practice, I think I get quite far. “