During its annual alumni game, St. Bernard High School retired alum and former MLB player Royce Clayton’s No. 1 jersey. Clayton was guest of honor at the event where the current team faced off against alumni baseball players from St. Bernard.
“Back when I graduated from St. Bernard, it was always a want for guys to reconnect that have been through the baseball program through the alumni games,” Clayton said. “We always try to round up our group and come back and participate in some way.”
The alumni team lost to the current players 4-3 in a 6-inning game.
“The alumni baseball game [is] a way to reconnect with our past,” said senior varsity player Thomas Kay. “It was a great game in general to just have fun.”
After the alumni game, the school hosted their rivalry basketball game against Serra High School of Gardena. During halftime, the school presented Clayton with a framed No. 1 jersey and a banner that will be displayed in the St. Bernard’s gym.
“He was one of our best athletes to come out of here, best in baseball. First round draft pick out of high school,” said St. Bernard baseball head coach, Abraham Alvarez.
The former MLB player also spoke with the current team, telling them the importance of patience and optimism when playing baseball.
“He just told the kids, day-to-day, you have to work hard to get what you want,” Alvarez said. The majority of the alumni team recently graduated from St. Bernard, under the tutelage of Alvarez.
“We had over 17 to 18 players who came and played,” Alvarez said. “We had some older guys from the 80’s and 90’s who kinda just sat in the stands and watched.”
Clayton attended St. Bernard in the late 1980’s, graduating in 1988. He went into the MLB draft that same year, becoming a 1st round pick to the San Francisco Giants. Five years later, he played for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. In his career, Clayton earned 723 RBIs and 935 runs, according to Major League Baseball.
Alvarez brought back the alumni game tradition three years ago. Clayton was honored to be commemorated for his achievements and represent Los Angeles like Daryl Strawberry and Eric Davis.
“I think St. Bernard stood for a lot of respect and dignity as far as carrying yourself as a student athlete,” Clayton said. “What I want to do with [what] that opportunity has brought me is to continue to promote the St. Bernard’s baseball program.”
Nine players returned to the current team, including Kay who is in his fourth varsity season. St. Bernard (4-3 overall) will begin playing against the Camino Real League teams on March 18 when they battle Mary Star of the Sea High School.
The alumni game helped Kay prepare for this season; he noted how the game made him focus on the team aspects of baseball. Kay also received good advice from Clayton.
“The best piece of advice he could have ever gave me was keep your head in the game no matter what’s going on,” Kay said. “Don’t let anything get to you and focus on what you know to do better.”