Brad Clontz has always given back to the community in Stuart, VA, especially at Patrick County High School, where he got his start. Though he went on to a Major League career, with a World Series title in Atlanta in 1995, he never forgot where he came from, and he’s always been a major supporter of Patrick County baseball in a way that stacks up to the motto of Virginia Tech: Ut Prosim.
“Patrick County, we’re proud of our baseball here,” Clontz said. “We think of Patrick County as baseball first, before any other sport, and we’ve had enough players come through here to say that, and enough championships, and we’re always relevant.”
Last month, on his 50th birthday, Clontz was surprised by a group of friends he’s accumulated through the years, not only from his hometown, but by many that he met in Atlanta while playing for the Braves. That group of friends, which includes former Braves’ centerfielder Andruw Jones, made a sizable financial contribution to have him honored on the scoreboard at Patrick County High School. It was their way of giving back to the guy who has always given back to his local community.
The ceremony came as a complete surprise to Clontz, who didn’t know anything about it until he showed up at the field to watch a Patrick County practice.
“Blown away, on a 10 out of 10,” he said. “They did an unbelievable job keeping it a secret. I can’t think of anything better on my 50th birthday celebration… to have friends who put together the finances to help the program grow, it’s just a huge tribute to all my friends, and the town.”
Jones was part of a contingent who flew from Atlanta on a private jet to attend the ceremony for his old teammate. The former teammates in the minors and the majors now spend a lot of time on the golf course together.
“Brad was the same Brad then that he is right now,” Jones said. “He’s always funny. Great man. Like everybody was talking today, ain’t nothing bad to say about him. Always happy, always ready to go and have fun. It was good to do something great for him. I know this field means a lot to him.”
Clontz, who also pitched for the Dodgers, Mets and Pirates during his career, credits legendary Virginia Tech baseball coach Chuck Hartman with developing him into a Major League pitcher.
My heart is broken tonight as this man was like a father to me. I owe him so much as he was the sole reason I decided to pitch sidearm the rest of my career. I trusted in what he saw in me and the rest is history. Greatest NCAA coach ever. RIP Coach Hartman. Will never forget https://t.co/KoCUcBXgRv pic.twitter.com/CK25l1gDJp
— Brad Clontz (@braves52) November 3, 2020
“Without Coach Hartman, I wouldn’t be where I am today. He got me to commit to dropping down sidearm full time my freshman year, and that was it. The next three years, those three years at Virginia Tech, got me to the big leagues. Being a sidearm reliever gave me a specialty. He saw it from day one. He got me to be the best version of me.”
With his experience in the big leagues, and now the scoreboard honoring his career at his home field, Clontz hopes it serves as an inspiration to current and future Patrick County players.
“I know in order to make it you need to look up to somebody and dream to be like somebody, whether it’s Mickey Mantle, Willie Randolph or Bucky Dent, or Nolan Ryan for me, and now those kids can look at that scoreboard and see that I’ve done something at the highest level, and now they can aspire to do something like that and follow their dreams. Hopefully somebody else will get there someday just like I did.”