Whenever Sylvan Lake Gulls shortstop Cleary Simpson finds himself in a bit of trouble, whether it’s at plate or in defense, he knows exactly who to contact – his sister Paige.
Paige is the starting shortstop of the provincial champion Red Deer Rage U19A softball team and one of the best players in the province.
“We like to exchange ideas about each other,” he said.
“She’s learned a lot from Jason (Chatwood at St. Joseph High School Ball Academy) and playing in big games, so when I’m having a little trouble it’s good to contact her and ask her questions. . “
Paige does the same with Cleary, who also attended St. Joe’s in Grade 12 and spent last season at Colby Community College in Kansas.
“I’ve learned a lot over the past year about the mental aspect of sport… it plays a big role, something that wasn’t there in high school. So that’s something I can pass on.
Paige is heading into grade 12 and has committed to Boise State University for the 2022-2023 season.
Cleary’s time at Colby also saw him start to fill up. He left Red Deer at five feet 10, 160 pounds and is now listed at six feet, 170 pounds.
“It’s always something I just have to keep working on… just spending time in the weight room and maybe eating a little more,” he said with a laugh.
One thing the talented Elnora native hasn’t changed is his hitting style. He’s always been a contact and line hitter, something that has left him in good stead with both Colby and Gulls coaching teams.
“I’m not about to start trying to get the ball out of the park,” he said. “I can hit a few more home runs, but also strikeouts or flyouts, which doesn’t help the team. My coaches told me about it and keep doing what I do.
He hit a solid .338 in his first season at Colby with three homers, eight doubles and 23 walks. He drove 24 races and scored 38 with a very solid .929 OPS (based plus strokes). Its base percentage was 0.469.
Cleary played 44 games, but alternated early in the season.
“I knew I had to win a place and save my playing time. It was fair. It was a question of if you were playing well, you were playing and if not, you were not playing it.
“I had a good year and now I hope to build on it.”
Another thing Cleary didn’t know until the season was whether they would play even because of COVID-19.
“We didn’t have a fall program, but a full spring schedule. Some places didn’t, but it worked for us.
In his first season with the Gulls, he started shortstop from day one and is second on the team at 0.303 with 21 walks, 10 RBIs and five steals. His OPS is .911 with a slugging average of .505.
His game impressed, but there was a time before the Western Canadian League Baseball season when Cleary wasn’t sure he would play full time.
“Initially, I was just going to be an affiliate player and not play every day,” he explained. “But when they switched to a Canadian All-Star, Chatty (head coach Jason Chatwood) asked me if I would play full time and everything went really well. I hope to continue for the next three or four years.
Players can play in the league as long as they are attending college or university.
As for playing shortstop, Cleary wasn’t expecting anything when he came to camp.
“At Colby I played mostly second base until the last two weekends when I went shortstop. Here I was not sure. We have a lot of talent in the infield and it’s a lot of fun playing with all the guys.
In fact, Cleary knew a number of players, having played with them at Colby.
“We have six guys from Colby which made the finish comfortable,” he said.
Simpson is planning next season to impress four-year-olds.
“Next year is great for me. I know the experience I have will help me, but I need to stay healthy and have another solid year. Upload videos and hope to chat with a few schools.
Cleary sees her time in St. Joe’s as a perfect stepping stone.
“It has been a big change in my career,” he said. “Coming out of midget I was a good player but not a star and the year at St. Joe’s helped me discover where I was as a player. It prepared me for college.
Cleary impressed Colby’s coach at a demonstration event in St. Joe’s.
“On the second day (of the event) their coach spent a lot of time with me and then offered me a job. I didn’t accept it right away, but I still felt like this was where I wanted to go. They have a great staff and a great program. Everyone who has been there has good things to say about it.
Cleary is a scholar, which helps a lot.
He also has a nine-noon part-time job at Bowden Penitentiary.
“Playing with the Gulls is hard to work full time so it worked out perfectly for me and put money in my pocket. “
The Gulls end their season in the middle of the month, then the playoffs, of which Cleary will stay until the end.
“The league is a little late this year, but my varsity coaches have told me I can stay here until we’re done and be a little late to go back to school. But it’s a good league and the experience will only help.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com