By Jeff Webster
July 18, 2002
MASON CITY, Iowa–There was never any doubt.
Marshalltown High's Jeff Clement found a Brady Foster 0-1 curveball breaking in just the right place and crushed the ball an estimated 425 feet to right field, hitting the roof of the Mason City bus barn in deep right field and bouncing over for career home run No. 71, thus crowning himself the new national high school career home run king.
“I've said it so many times because I mean it–I don't play baseball to break records; I play to win,” the ever-humble Clement said amidst a throng of media. “I am honored to have the record, sure, but what has been even more fun is that we have won a lot of ballgames, and hopefully we will continue to win even more.”
Mason City athletic director Dan Delaney said Clement's rocket was only the fourth ball in his 17-year tenure that he could recall hitting the roof of the bus barn. Clement, a Southern California signee drafted in the 12th round by the Twins, has hit three of them.
“I knew it was gone the minute it left my hand,” a gracious Foster, a lanky southpaw who greeted Clement at the plate, explained. “I tried to start it over the plate and have it break outside, but when it left it was at his shoulder and was starting to break right over the plate.
“I knew it was going to go a long way before he even started to swing.”
In a great show of sportsmanship, Foster and his teammates all congregated at home to congratulate Clement after his teammates had mobbed him. A prolonged standing ovation and curtain-call followed as the crowd of 1,200 roared.
Delaney had stationed Mason City students outside the fence in the event of a Clement home run in hopes of assuring that the historic ball would be returned to the slugger, but Kevin Adair of Marshalltown ran to the far side of the barn and secured the ball, which Clement was later given.
“That was a really classy act by them, and I was really impressed by it,” Clement said of the Mohawk reaction to his feat. “I appreciated the way they handled the whole thing and I thought it showed a whole lot of class on their part.”
“He hits a home run and damn-near sprints around the bases,” Foster said. “I don't know Jeff, but I like the way he plays the game and the respect he shows it.”
Marshalltown coach Steve Hanson joked there was little to add to what had already been said of Clement.
“The good thing about those individual things for Jeff is that they help us win games,” Hanson said. “I guarantee you he would trade all 71 of those for the right to play (in the state title game) because that is our goal.”