He grew up in Pigtown, about five minutes from Camden Yards, cheering favorites Cal Ripken Jr. and Joe Orsulak. He graduated from Mount St. Joseph in Baltimore and currently lives in Linthicum. He played five years with Youse’s Orioles, the summer scout team. Teammates included Steve Johnson, Gavin Floyd and the late Nick Adenhart.
Clevenger attended Chipola Junior College in Florida, as did Orioles manager Buck Showalter before transferring to Mississippi State.
His coach on Youse’s team was Orioles scout Dean Albany, who contacted him earlier today after learning that Clevenger and pitcher Scott Feldman were acquired from the Cubs for pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop.
“He’s a great guy,” Albany said today while heading to Double-A Bowie to watch Eduardo Rodriguez’s start. “He’s a baseball player who can hit. Steve’s aware. He likes to win, he’s a team player. It’s never been about Steve. It’s always been about the team. He’s a high on-base guy. He always walked at a high rate and struck out at a very low rate. He puts the ball in play. He’s a left-handed hitting catcher who can play a little corner infield.”
Clevenger was a shortstop in high school and college. The Cubs moved him behind the plate, but it wasn’t an entirely new experience. He also caught during his final year with Youse’s Orioles, after the backup returned home.
“We’d play doubleheaders every Saturday and Sunday,” Albany said. “We needed another catcher and Steve said he’d give it a shot. When he did, he started to do real well.
“We talked about it. I told him that he wasn’t quick enough to play middle infield in pro ball. Catching could be his spot. He worked hard and he ran with it. He ended up being a decent catcher.
“It’s pretty neat having him here. He can hit. He’s always dirty. He’s just one of those guys who always seems to get the job done.”
Those games with Albany did wonders for Clevenger as he moved on to college and the professional ranks.
“Dean brought me on as a young guy,” Clevenger said. “He always had older guys. He gave me the experience to compete harder against older competition, and it made me a better player in my age group by playing with older guys.”
Clevenger, who will report to Triple-A Norfolk on Wednesday, heard rumors that he would be traded. Going to the Orioles fulfilled a childhood dream.
“I was very, very excited,” he said. “I was kind of in shock. I didn’t know where I was going. I hoped it would be Baltimore, because I had been linked to them earlier, but I had no idea. I found out and I was so happy and pumped to come back to my hometown.”
Clevenger barely had time to contact his family before the trade was announced.
“I found out five minutes before it hit the news,” he said. “Everybody was texting me. I got to tell my mom first. But after that, everybody started calling me.
“It’s just a dream come true to play at home.”
Clevenger didn’t make it to any playoff games last October.
“I figured it would be kind of hectic getting tickets, so I watched at home,” he said. “I’m good friends with Ryan Flaherty, but I didn’t want to bother him. I figured he was busy and stuff.”