Jeff Clement didn’t have a set plan for what life without professional baseball would be when he decided to hang up his cleats and retire his catcher’s mit last year.
But he knew he had a lot to give back to the game that treated him so well over the last 15 or so years.
That led the former Marshalltown Bobcat to his latest adventure as he officially became a member of the University of Iowa baseball coaching staff Tuesday.
Clement, Iowa’s all-time high school career leader in home runs, will be a volunteer coach who will focus his time on the Hawkeye catchers and pitchers and assist in recruiting duties as well as assist Iowa hitting instructor Marty Sutherland.
“I had no idea what to expect after I retired from baseball,” said Clement, who played professionally for four years after his time as a collegiate player at the University of Southern California. “I have been able to do a lot of things because of baseball and I am thankful for what baseball has given me.”
Clement spent parts of four seasons in MLB with the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations as a catcher and first baseman.
Before being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft, Clement played three seasons at the University of Southern California. He finished his career as a .314 hitter in 171 career games, belting 46 home runs, knocking in 150 RBIs and scoring 149 runs.
“We are excited and fortunate to add Jeff to our coaching staff,” said Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller, who guided the Hawkeyes to 30 wins in his first season in 2014. “Jeff will do a great job working with our catchers and hitters. He was an outstanding player and comes from a great coaching family. We are all looking forward to working with him.”
Sutherland was instrumental in Clement signing on with the Hawkeyes. He played with Jeff’s older brother Mike at Kirkwood Community College and reached out to Mike Clement to gauge his brother’s potential interest in coaching.
Jeff Clement wasn’t sure things would work out in Iowa City, but after discussing the offer with his brother, his wife Lindsay and even current Marshalltown coach Steve Hanson, he figured out it was the best situation for his family moving forward.
“I reached out to a lot of people and it just worked out,” said Jeff Clement. “I needed to make a wise decision and not put my family on the backburner and this will help me as I move toward a career after professional baseball.”
Jeff Clement and his family, which includes four children, currently reside in Ankeny but will work on transitioning to a rented home in Iowa City while also keeping their house in Central Iowa.
And the fact that he made some money playing in the professional ranks, he won’t immediately have to worry about working for free under Heller.
“I made some money playing and that gave me the opportunity to do this,” said Jeff Clement. “I am honored to be joining the Iowa baseball staff for the upcoming season. As a lifelong Hawkeye fan, continuing my life in baseball wearing the black and gold is very exciting. It is my goal to add value to the team through serving the staff, players, and university to the best of my ability.”
Clement closed out his Trojan career ranking second in career home runs (to Mark McGwire, 54), tied for seventh (with McGwire) in RBIs, tied for eighth in slugging percentage (.596) (with Morgan Ensburg) and 10th with 114 walks.
Following his final season at USC in 2005, Clement was the recipient of the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top catcher and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
He hit .348 with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 54 RBIs and a .472 on-base percentage en route to Baseball America, USA Today Sports Weekly and Collegiate Baseball All-America first-team honors, while also being named to the NCBAWA All-America third team.
Jeff Clement led his hometown team to the 1996 Little League World Series. As a prep at Marshalltown High School, he hit 75 career home runs to break the national high school record -- a mark he holds to this day.
While volunteering in the Iowa program, Clement also will work toward an online degree in community studies through the University of Alabama. He and his family will head to Tuscaloosa for orientation in August, but the former Bobcat hopes to return to Iowa City before school starts in the fall.
The younger Clement will lean on his elder brother Mike for advice and also is still very close with Hanson, his high school coach at Marshalltown.
“Mike’s track record speaks for itself,” said Jeff. “He’ll be there to help me out and I will definitely lean on him for advice.
“What I learned as a player under Hanson has been invaluable to my playing career and I will take that to the coaching ranks, too. Nobody is more prepared for a baseball game than Coach Hanson and he taught me a lot about the game and I am thankful for what he has given me.”