Matthews to continue baseball career at UMO

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PIKEVILLE — Teen athletes often become invested in grueling training schedules and achieving success in such intense competition that it can often consume their lives.

Clay Matthews, however, is an exception.

A multi-sport athlete expected to rewrite the record books on the football field and baseball diamond in 2021, he has a completely different perspective on his senior campaign at Charles B. Aycock.

Matthews is a dad, too.

No matter how his day went in either the classroom or skill-development sessions during this COVID pandemic, his world changes when he gets home.

That’s when he immediately wraps his arms around his bright-eyed little girl — Leighton Brie Matthews.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me it’s going to change my life and I’m going to love her to death,” Matthews said. “Now, here I am and it’s exactly what they said. Coming home every day, seeing her smile, holding her, it takes everything off your shoulders when you’ve had a bad day.

“It just makes me more hungry.”

Hungry to fulfill a life-long dream and continue a family tradition.

One of the most-talented players to grace a CBA uniform, Matthews signed a national letter-of-intent to play baseball at the University of Mount Olive in 2022.

His dad, Brad, played for Mount Olive in the 1990s.

Brad’s cousin, Derek, also wore the Trojans’ green.

“It’s pretty cool,” Matthews said. “Walking around [campus], about halfway through I thought, ‘yeah this is definitely the right place for me to be at.’

“I just think it’s a good fit for me…best choice because I’m close to home.”

Before the coronavirus abruptly canceled high school sports last spring, Matthews’ batting average hovered above .400. He hopes to find that magic again next spring and build on some stout career numbers.

Matthews has scored 31 runs, collected 39 hits and knocked in 30 RBI during his 48-game high school career. He’s hitting a crisp .312 at the dish with just 21 strikeouts in 159 official plate appearances.

A shortstop-turned-outfielder, he’s posted a .940 fielding percentage on defense.

“I think UMO is a great fit for Clay,” said CBA head coach Allen Thomas. “He has a chance to go there and have a fantastic career.”

During his campus tour with UMO alum and pitching coach Casey Hodges, Matthews learned about campus life, the importance of academics and the quality of athletes who have played in the program.

The daily grind — a family, academics, athletics — will emerge as a bigger challenge once he leaves CBA.

“I think I need to be a true leader, even as a freshman,” Matthews said. “I’m going to try to push everybody. If I go out there and play, listen to everything they say and do the stuff they tell me in practice, I think I’ll go pretty far.”

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