Growing up in Southern California, Clayton Carson had the regular baseball dreams and aspirations that any young kid would have. Coming from a good baseball family and community, he had the opportunity to make the most out of the game of baseball. In college he jumped around from a few different colleges before settling in with San Diego State University under the helm of MLB great Tony Gwynn in 2005. Clayton played third base and shortstop for Gwynn and led the team in base hits and RBIs after 13 games before undergoing a career ending second back surgery.
Like any true baseball fanatic, Clayton changed his focus to coaching and landed an assistant coaching gig in 2006 at his former junior college in Mission Viejo, California called Saddleback College. He remained on there until 2010 also coaching a local U18 team on the side. In 2012 he landed the role as assistant coach at division I Southern Utah University. His coaching career seeming to be taking off. A dramatic and excellent opportunity presented itself 26 games into the season after the entire coaching staff was dismissed. Clayton found himself in the role as interim head coach trying to manage a tough transitional period of coaching changes and the cancellation of the baseball program. By season end the team had improved dramatically in most statistical categories and many individual players went on to achieve many successes between the lines.
In 2013 Clayton decided to give scouting a shot as he landed a role as Associate Scout in Southern California for the Toronto Blue Jays. By 2014 he had realized that coaching was his true calling and decided to turn his focus overseas as he always had a desire to travel the world. A few google searches later he came across the International Baseball Community website and immediately put up a profile. Soon he was in contact with a few clubs but had no real bites.
Like a true go-getter, Clayton packed his bags and headed to Europe in May 2014. He had no real plan other than the names and contact info of a few teams in the the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic. He had also contacted me that he would be in Europe and if I knew of any opportunities. I invited him to crash on my couch for our annual international tournament in Austria called Finkstonball in early June if he did not find any clubs willing to take him in.
Clayton showed up a couple days before the tournament and immediately left an impression as he volunteered to help set up this enormous tournament that features a festival with live music at night. It was through his willingness to help and his ability to take the time to meet just about everybody that showed up that weekend, that helped Clayton work his way on to the Polish National Team for the tournament as their starting shortstop.
His ability to network, work hard, and play some solid baseball turned the heads of many people at the tournament including members of the Hard Bulls, a second division Austrian club who was struggling in their current season and was in desperate need of some leadership. Before he knew it he found himself signing a contract as a player-coach for the Hard Bulls in Vorarlberg, arguably the most beautiful part of Austria.
He immediately fit in and attributes most of his good memories from his time in Hard to the great family atmosphere amongst the club and extended family and friends. He spent his downtime living and working on a Yak farm in exchange for free meals.
Clayton managed to do his part and helped the team turn their season around, however it was a little too late as they just missed the playoffs by a slim margin.
When asked how he felt about being in a league that is much lower than he was used to.
“I enjoy playing baseball, being around baseball. But its the experience, the people you meet, the places you see. I know I am not going to make the big leagues, for me that ship has sailed. I am just enjoying my time out here and if I have an opportunity to play baseball and see the world, that is a pretty good deal.”
I am just enjoying my time out here and if I have an opportunity to play baseball and see the world, that is a pretty good deal.
See the world he did…. from a bird’s eye view. Clayton quickly decided to take full advantage of his location and decided to jump out of a plane above the Austria Alps in a glacial valley falling between what he explains to be two cliff walls on either side as he was dropping down.
No sooner had he settled into his flat in Austria and he had an offer to play and coach in Adelaide Australia with the Golden Grove Central District Dodgers. A very young team in the rebuilding process, the Dodgers looked to Clayton’s experience as a coach and his abilities as a player to help them grow and advance through the ranks in a very competitive league where plenty of American former affiliated and independent league pro’s can be found playing. Located in a northeastern suburb of Adelaide, Clayton found himself not far away from downtown and the beaches of southern Australia.
Living with a host family of five in a four bedroom house and only one bathroom was a “little tight” as Clayton put it, however they were great people and between them and the clubhouse his meals were taken care of.
Again Clayton decided to exercise his adventurous side as he dove with Great White Sharks. “That was unreal, probably one of the best experiences of my life,” said Clayton in this interview of his seemingly need to put his life in danger.
As his season was winding down, Clayton had an offer on the table with the Bulls to come back to Austria, but his desire to try new experiences led him to Zurich Switzerland in the summer of 2015 as player-coach for the Zurich Challengers, a frontrunner in the top Swiss league, the NLA.
Clayton and the Challengers were just entering the playoffs at the time of this interview as they were facing off against IBC member and former podcast guest Chris Michals and the Zurich Barracudas. The winner of that will have to get through the reigning champions Therwil Flyers who boast a line-up with IBC member Jack Shannon as their import.
When asked of his current off the field adventures Clayton terrified me with this reply, “I went down and did the running of the Bulls this year in Pamplona Spain. It makes you alive when you got these 2000 pound animals with horns coming at you. It’s a rush.”
I went down and did the running of the Bulls this year in Pamplona Spain. It makes you alive when you got these 2000 pound animals with horns coming at you. It’s a rush
“Every time you go to a new team, you instantly got 40-50 new friends that want to show you what makes their corner of the world so special.”
Clayton is wrapping up his season in Switzerland and will hop on a plane for his second season in Australia with the Dodgers. As far as his future in baseball overseas Clayton urged clubs to contact him.
“One of the reasons I do this is to try and see new places and have new experiences. So I am always open for another new place to check out.”
This interview is full of great information for anyone that wants to take their career overseas as a coach or a player. Clayton gives the prospective from the club’s point of view as well as the player point of view. Details about the leagues, especially the South Australian Baseball League are all within this interview. A great story and a ton of valuable information all in one. Enjoy.