MWL notes: Jones, Clement seeking edge

Indians prospects put hockey experience to use with Lake County

Nolan Jones (left) was a second-round pick in 2016; Ernie Clement went in the fourth round in 2017. (Alicia Falorio/Lake County Captains)

By Curt Rallo / Special to MiLB.com | June 7, 2018 11:00 AM ET

There will be a time this season when Lake County's Nolan Jones and Ernie Clement clear out the furniture, set up makeshift goals and turn the clubhouse into a hockey arena.

Jones and Clement were both standout high school hockey players in addition to excelling in baseball.

Jones, a second-round pick by the Indians in the 2016 Draft, thinks his 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame will provide the edge over Clement, who's listed at six feet, 170 pounds and was Cleveland's fourth-round selection in 2017.

"I would definitely like to say that Ernie doesn't have a chance," Jones joked. "I've heard a lot about Ernie's hands. I've heard he's a skilled hockey guy. But I think I could push him out of the way and take the puck. I'm bigger than him and stronger."

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The main concern for Jones about a possible hockey face-off against Clement would be the bill for damages to the clubhouse.

"I don't know if the clubhouse would survive," Jones said. "I think we'd be throwing hands and fighting before the game was over. We're both very competitive guys."

Clement wouldn't be empty-handed for the battle.

"I might have my parents bring my stick for this match," he said.

Jones was hockey first, then baseball when he was growing up in eastern Pennsylvania. He started skating at 18 months. His older brother, Peyton, is a goalie for the Penn State hockey team.

"In our basement, we have a nice hockey set-up and played on rollerblades," Jones said. "In the backyard, we have a nice baseball set-up. I was a pitcher, and he was a catcher. In hockey, I was a forward, and he was a goalie. We've always had a nice competitiveness going."

Jones didn't play travel baseball -- hockey was his main focus as a youth. He played on a team coached by former Flyers great Keith Primeau in the Philadelphia area.

"I thought hockey was my No. 1, but then I ran into some head-injury problems, and that forced me to choose baseball. It was a blessing in disguise. I absolutely love what I get to do every day with baseball."

A concussion suffered playing hockey forced Jones to miss two months of school as a freshman, and he missed his entire sophomore season. He returned to help his hockey team win a state championship as a junior, but chose to focus on baseball after that.

"I sat down with my parents and decided to focus on baseball," Jones said. "I didn't actually agree with it. We had our arguments.

"I had to work hard to catch the attention of baseball scouts," Jones said. "I never really saw myself as a big prospect. My dad always told me, if you're good enough, people are going to come and see you. That's really how it happened for me.

"In my junior year of high school, I never thought that signing out of high school was an option in baseball. Then a scout talked to my dad and told him that I was a prospect for the next year's Draft. That's when it struck us."

Clement was baseball first but loved lacing up the skates in northern New York as a youth.

"I started playing hockey when I was six," Clement said. "I just loved it. It was really fun. I never really expected to go anywhere with hockey. It was more to stay in shape.

"I think hockey really helped with my conditioning and my leg strength," Clement said. "Hockey was a really good workout. The toughness aspect is huge. You have to be a grinder to play hockey. That's really helped in baseball."

After Clement received an offer to play baseball at the University of Virginia, he focused totally on the sport.

Captains manager Luke Carlin said playing multiple sports has likely bolstered the baseball careers of Jones and Clement.

"I definitely think hockey enhanced their baseball careers," Carlin said. "In America, it's so funny, because we are so specialized in sports so early. The science has already been done on specializing in sports, and it's not good. If you want your child to develop, have them play a lot of sports. It's such a huge advantage to play multiple sports."

Jones said hockey skills have been valuable in baseball.

"Hockey is an absolute mental grind," Jones said. "In competitive hockey, there is constantly somebody slashing you, chirping you, trying to get under your skin. It's something you have to overlook, just like the failures in baseball. You also develop situational awareness in hockey that helps in baseball. You always have to keep your head on a swivel so you're not getting crushed. Just like in baseball, you have to be aware of the situation before it happens."

In brief

Fourth explosion: Bowling Green blasted off for 10 runs in the fourth inning against West Michigan last Friday. The 10-run frame tied a franchise record for most runs in an inning at home. (The Hot Rods record is 11.) Bowling Green smacked four consecutive singles to start the inning, and Ronaldo Hernandez hit a grand slam during the outburst.

Streak ends: Lansing's run of nine consecutive victories against Dayton in 2018 ended Saturday. The Lugnuts outscored the Dragons 80-32 in the nine meetings. The Lugnuts opened the series at Dayton with a 12-1 win to start a 13-game, 14-day road trip.

Football at the park: Ferris State will take on Michigan Tech in a college football game on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock, Michigan, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. It will be the first college football game at Fifth Third Ballpark since Ferris State and Michigan Tech met there in 2009.

Curt Rallo is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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