Joey Tepper

Editor’s note: Joey Tepper, who is a senior mass communication major from Fort Mill, S.C., is a member of the Winthrop University baseball team.

(Rock Hill, S.C.) – The Winthrop University baseball team will look to turn the page after a losing season in 2021 and turn its focus to February 2022 with a new mindset.

To that end, head coach Tom Riginos brought in some professional experience to the coaching staff by hiring former Baltimore Orioles farmhand Chris Clare.

Clare was drafted as an infielder by the Orioles in the 21st round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft and climbed through the Baltimore system where he reached AAA in Norfolk, Va. in 2019, just one step away from making to the major leagues.

“Getting the opportunity to play professional baseball was something I will never take for granted. The life lessons and the friends I made in my short time will forever be cherished,” said Clare.

He was born in raised in Fort Mill and he attended Charlotte Catholic High School, before eventually committing to play baseball at High Point University in North Carolina.

“One thing that stood out for me when hiring Chris was how good of a person he is. I knew this from his high school days and his time at High Point. That is something very important to me when hiring an assistant coach. I knew he would represent Winthrop and the baseball program in first class manner,” said Riginos.

At the beginning of 2021, Clare injured his left shoulder while playing for the independent Sioux City, Iowa Explorers that led to labrum surgery and retirement.

“Once you go pro, everybody has the same skill set. Everybody can hit, everybody can run, everybody can play, but between the ears is where it kind of matters and it took me five or six years to kind of figure it out playing professionally,” said Clare.

However, as his playing career came to an end, it opened the door for an opportunity in Rock Hill as an assistant coach for the Eagles.

“It gives Chris instant credibility with the players. I also thought he could bring new ideas to our infielders and hitters. I think he has done a terrific job in doing this. He is such a joy to be around and he has been an outstanding fit,” said Riginos.

Clare started his work at Winthrop over the summer and he has already had the opportunity to work with a few of the players.

Will Martin, a junior infielder from Cary, N.C., said it’s nice to learn from a coach with professional experience.

“Chris is a coach who is easy to approach and really understands how to take what he learned at the pro level and apply it to me and the other infielders for this team. He has already made me better and I am excited to be able to keep working with him over the next two years,” said Martin.

Winthrop will continue off-season workouts throughout the fall semester. The Eagles will open the 2022 season at home Feb. 18 against Eastern Michigan.