By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Some things seem to work out perfectly.
When Clayton Prestridge played for the West Virginia Miners, he was arguably the team’s most popular player for two summers. He was a Prospect league all-star and won the batting title in 2012.
He may be finished playing baseball in the Mountain state, but he will don a Miners jersey again next spring — just in a different part of the country.
Prestridge is a step closer to realizing his dream of being paid to play baseball after signing with the Southern Illinois Miners of the semi-pro Frontier League.
“It’s pretty ironic that I signed with the Southern Illinois Miners,” Prestridge said in a phone interview. “It’s the craziest thing. It’s almost like it was meant to be.”
“He is probably one of the most recognizable players we have had,” said Tim Epling, who managed Prestridge during his two seasons in Beckley. “I didn’t realize (the Miners name) until he texted me.”
This second group of Miners can only hope Prestridge is as successful for them as he was in West Virginia.
The catcher from Huntington Beach, Calif., was a league all-star in 2011, then followed that up by winning the batting crown with a .393 average the next season. He was a vital cog in the Miner’s run to their first of two straight PL championships.
What fans may not have known was that Prestridge played most of 2012 with an injured shoulder, and it didn’t get any better for his senior season at UC-Riverside last spring. Still, he started every game that season, and that damaged his hopes of playing professional ball in the summer.
Despite the injury, Southern Illinois manager Mike Minto stayed in contact with Prestridge.
“He sent me a message on Facebook and said he had good scouting reports on me from scouting Prospect league games,” Prestridge said.
“I contacted him last June and they said they didn’t have a need for me, but I contacted him again a few weeks ago and he said they did. He did some research on me and I ended up signing with them.”
The chance means even more to Prestridge when you consider how unhappy he was at Riverside.
“I didn’t have a good experience in college. I didn’t get along with the coaches, “ he said. “I did have the time of my life in West Virginia. I did have fun there. At school, I just looked at the big picture and tried to focus on my self. I knew I wanted to play pro ball like I know I can. The coaches didn’t do anything to try and help me. I tried not to let them bother me too much.”
“To get this opportunity is a blessing.”
Prestridge is the 22nd former Miner to either be drafted or sign with a professional team. Victor Gomez, who also was a catcher with the Miners, also played in the Frontier League with the Florence Freedom last summer.
Prestridge is one of 36 players invited to a two-week spring training starting May 1. They will be vying for 24 roster spots, so Prestridge still has to make the team.
Epling doesn’t see that as being a problem.
“I think he will do real well,” he said. “They play very good baseball with all different levels of players there. I think he is a perfect fit for that league.”
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