Clement Right at Home in Wisconsin

Clement: one step closer (Photo/Timber Rattlers)

APPLETON, Wisc. - It's not everyday you lose an all-star catcher and team leader and still find yourself starting the top catching prospect in the draft. But that has been the case for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, which lost catcher Rob Johnson when the 2004 fourth round pick was called up to Inland Empire. His spot was filled by Jeff Clement, the Mariners' first round pick this past June and the third player chosen overall.

"I think with our drafting philosophy we go with the best player available and it just happened that he was available," said Timber Rattlers manager Scott Steinmann about the Mariners top pick. "As a fellow catcher I like that we chose a catcher."

Clement recently signed with the Mariners and was sent to short season Everett where he played a few games. Very few games. After a solid showing with the AquaSox, along with the organization's desire to challenge Rob Johnson, Clement was sent packing for Wisconsin. And despite only being in town a few days, the former college star is feeling right at home with his teammates and the coaching staff.

"Well, so far everything's been great," said Clement. "The guys here are great, easy to get along with, very welcoming from the beginning, so that makes things a lot easier. We won the first two games and lost a tough one tonight, but you can tell that this team knows how to win ball games."

Clement also appreciates the great team chemistry and winning attitude. Despite having a mix of guys from high school, college and the independent leagues, the club has really gelled. Clement, who played college ball at USC, has even gotten along with Matt Tuiasosopo, despite the shortstop's deep family roots with the Washington Huskies, a Pac-10 rival.

"I can tell from the first day I came in here that they have good chemistry and that's going to allow you to win a lot of close ball games," said Clement. "Just like we did the past few nights, unfortunately we came up a little short tonight but we really battled to get back into the game after we fell down. The chemistry on this team is great no matter who's on it or where they're from. Everyone just gets along well. It's hard to find that with most teams."

In addition to having a great group of guys in the clubhouse, Clement has the luxury of playing for manager Scott Steinmann, who is a former Timber Rattlers backstop.

"He's going to see things that I'm doing that a normal manager might not," said Clement. "And he caught in this system and he knows what is expected of catchers in this organization. So really I couldn't have asked for a better situation for myself."

"It helps out that I'm here, as far as getting him to know what he needs to do professionally," said Steinmann. "Calling a game, handling the pitching staff, and fundamentals that we do we can hit on a daily basis. That's good that I can help out with that."

So far, so good for the M's top pick.

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