Millikan High has written an amazing new chapter in the rich history of Moore League baseball, and there have been many pleasant surprises along the way.
A 43-inning scoreless streak, an almost undefeated run to its first league title since 2001 and the emergence of Josh Frye as a dominant force in Long Beach-area baseball.
But arguably the most unexpected figure has been Rams' third baseman Matt Clampitt, who finished second in the league batting race behind Lakewood standout Jeff Yamaguchi.
The lean Millikan junior doesn't look the part, but teams have overlooked Clampitt all year at their own peril.
Clampitt leads the Rams with 40 hits and a .415 average, and has a 3-1 record on the mound with a 1.62 ERA. He's scored 22 runs and driven in 20 more.
Clampitt is admittedly a kid who looks like he belongs more in a library than on a baseball field, but Millikan coach Scott Glasser and his players couldn't be happier to have Clampitt on their side.
"Matt isn't flashy and if I'm being honest, he had to prove to me that he could play," Glasser said. "He's a kid who I noticed right away did everything the right way and I knew he'd play for us, I just didn't know where."
Clampitt began the season thinking he'd get an at-bat here and there and possibly get some time in the Millikan infield.
"We put him at third base and he was making all the plays and then all of a sudden, he started hitting the ball real well and I knew we needed to find him a regular spot," Glasser said. "I would say this about any of my 13 kids, but we definitely would not have won the Moore League title without Matt and all his clutch hits."
When Clampitt first broke into the lineup, he hit in the No. 8 spot, but soon made his way into what has become his No. 5 slot behind Paul Slater.
"I love the fact that people look at me and don't fear me, because it tends to get me a lot of pitches to hit," Clampitt said. "It helps a lot to have Cody (Hazel), Jonathan (Singleton) and Paul (Slater) hitting around me and I wouldn't be having the year I am without them in our lineup."
His teammates in good nature tease Clampitt for his "nerdy" look, but when seriously discussing his contribution to their success, it’s a unanimous respect.
"I played with Matt when we were younger and I knew he could be good, but I didn't know he'd be this good," Millikan ace Josh Frye said. "He works very hard and he may not look like someone that can do a lot of damage, but he's been our most clutch hitter all year."
Clampitt says his mother, Betty-Jo, is the rock in his life and he wouldn't have enjoyed the success he's had without her.
"My mom and I are extremely close, and she's a stay-at-home mother who has always made the sacrifices to help me in my life and I love her so much," Clampitt said. "My dad (Russell Clampitt) is a lawyer and his job takes up a lot of his time, but he tries to make it to every game he can."
Clampitt is an only child and joked about the fact that everyone in his family wears glasses.
"People probably think I'm this nerdy kid who is a goodie-goodie, but I have a side to me that only my teammates, friends and family see that would probably surprise people," he said.
Glasser calls Clampitt "unassuming," and it’s probably that attitude that most endears him to his teammates and coaches.
Said Glasser: "Matt is a guy who listens when he's supposed to listen, he doesn't care where he is in the lineup and as long as we're winning, he doesn't care who gets the credit for it."
Glasser also said Clampitt might not know it, but he is considered a team leader.
"Matt wouldn't expect anyone to call him a leader, but he is that type of kid who lets his play do all the talking and that's the kind of leader any coach would love to have on his team," Glasser said.
Clampitt admits to having an ego like everyone else, but has his priorities in check.
"I would be lying if I didn't say I cared about my stats, but without question, my team comes first," Clampitt said. "I love contributing to my team’s success, but if we win a game and I don't play well, that's what matters."
When asked what his most memorable moments of the season were, Clampitt quickly narrowed it down to two events.
Said Clampitt: "Winning the Moore League was huge for all of us, and beating Lakewood on our home field was awesome. I remember before that game people from Lakewood were talking all kinds of trash on the LBPostSports web site and it really got us pumped."
Simply put, Clampitt is a kid that is easy to root for, and yet he knows next season he won't be able to sneak up on people like he did this year.
"I am happy to have had a very good junior season, and next year could even better, but I'm putting all my heart into this playoff run with my teammates," Clampitt said. "We have a really close team and have had contributions from everyone, and I'm just glad to do my part."