June 25th, 2015
A sea of red rose as one at the Otter Lodge in Brighton last night. Normally, these Brighton Barons and Ernie Clement fans would be clad in blue. But because they had just finished a softball game at Cobbs Hill, they came to cheer their home town hero in scarlet red Tuthill Lighting uniforms.
And, they were not disappointed. Ernie, who starred at Brighton High School for four years, is, as only a freshman, the starting second baseman for the now college baseball champions, the University of Virginia Cavaliers who defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores yesterday to capture the NCAA title.
Amidst all the hoopla, one fan was particularly thrilled, Jason Wasserman, who coached Ernie in Little League and in high school. Jason describes what makes Ernie special:
I coached Ernie when he was 9-12 years old then again for 4 seasons in high school. So 8 years total.
Ernie as a player was always very athletic. He made natural movements to the ball, had instincts above anyone in his age group, and was an outstanding hitter no matter what age he was. Ernie loves playing the game. He is calm, cool and relaxed at all times. For that reason he is the one you want up in a pressure situation, he is the one you wanted the ball hit at in a close game.
As a player at BHS he set a then record highest all time Batting Average in a season during his sophomore year at Brighton with a .560. He also holds the career records in plate appearances, singles, doubles, and stolen bases. Ernie was the Section V player of the year his junior and senior year, and also was the Monroe County player of the year as a junior. He made All-Greater Rochester his Sophmore-Senior years. He committed to UVA during the summer of his junior year. He went to a showcase at UVA and did incredibly well. The coach and he talked and he decided on that school.
Ernie is a great teammate. He works hard in practice, jokes with the players, and sets a good example of how things should be done. You would never know by talking to him that he is as talented as he is. He is very humble and will always give others credit for the team’s success.
Sean Hope, who also coached Ernie in Little League, has a telling anecdote. At the Otter, I asked him when he saw Ernie’s potential as a player. As Sean says, it became clear during the Opening Day parade for the Brighton Little League:
During the parade, kids are often fidgety. To calm them, I ask baseball trivia questions. And Ernie just sat there and rattled off every correct answer. I saw then his passion for baseball. And earlier when I saw him play, I knew immediately how well others had taught him the game. All I needed to tell him was, have fun and be good teammate.
And Ernie always has. Hopefully, next season his fans will again gather, this time dressed in Baron blue, to celebrate.