Selected with the 259th overall selection out of Indiana State, the middle infielder wasted no time acclimating himself to pro-ball. In helping to lead Idaho Falls to a Pioneer League Championship, Dungan slashed .357/.427/.494 and posted a wRC+ of 146, good for 5th in the league. Royals Farm Report would like to extend a warm thank you to Clay for taking time out of his hectic offseason schedule. Be sure to give Clay a follow and show some love on Twitter (@Clamane_6) and Instagram (@clamane_6). Enjoy!
Let’s start at the beginning, can you talk about where your passion for baseball began?
I played several sports when I was little but my dad was a big baseball guy so as I got older, I fell in love with the game more. Once I got to high school, I realized I was better at baseball than other sports. With baseball, I had always enjoyed practicing whereas basketball and football I didn’t get the same amount of enjoyment.
Who was the most influential person in your life when it came to baseball?
Definitely my dad.
Growing up, who was your favorite player?
We were Reds fans since they played about an hour and a half from where we lived so we always went to a game or two a year. Growing up, I liked Brandon Phillips and Ken Griffey, Jr. a lot.
How do you think playing multiple sports helped your development?
I think playing multiple sports is a good thing. In high school I played football and baseball and in middle school I wrestled and played basketball as well. All of those sports teach you different things to help you become a better overall athlete. They can help on the baseball field with learning how your body moves. Like with wrestling, no one else is out there with you. It’s similar to being in a battle with the pitcher every time you step up to the plate.
What led you to make the decision to attend Indiana State?
I wasn’t a very highly recruited guy out of high school because I was undersized. Once my junior year rolled around, I started growing and getting more attention. The coaches at Indiana State are straight forward. It’s kind of a blue-collar program. We may not have the gear that other teams have but we’re right up there competing with the top teams in the country.
Can you talk a bit about finding success early on at Indiana State?
When I came to college, I didn’t really know what to expect. Luckily, I was thrown in early and I was the DH pretty much all year. The infield that year had 2 of the 3 (eligible) guys drafted so it was great to have guys like that to look up to. There was definitely a benefit of being thrown in there earlier to figure it out rather than just sitting back and waiting until my sophomore year to get in a game. Being able to get the nerves out early and improve every practice while getting playing time helped to build my confidence.
You undrafted following your junior year in 2018, did that put a bit of a chip on your shoulder heading into your senior season?
I wouldn’t say there was a chip on my shoulder. Things just didn’t happen the way I thought they would. Following my sophomore year, I thought I’d have a better year but I had a wrist injury and played with it taped up like a boxer, so that took away some of my power. I couldn’t really swing with as much power so I hit more groundballs but everything happens for a reason. By returning to school I was able to experience winning our conference championship in my senior season. It was the best year I had. At times it seemed like the worst but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Who or what would you say made the biggest impact on your development in college?
I’d say our head coach/hitting coach, Mitch Hannahs. He wasn’t really a guy to mess with your swing, he’s much more about approach and battling at the plate. That worked with my style more because in my opinion your mindset is more important than your swing mechanics. My infield coach Brian Smiley helped me improve a lot with fielding. We had one of the top infields in the country in terms of fielding percentage and he made me about ten times better from my freshman year to my senior year.
Pro ball and Modern Baseball Era:
So, what were you hearing leading up to the draft this year?
My coach and my advisor at the time were telling me not to worry, that I would be drafted. I figured I would get picked up and I’m just glad I get an opportunity to play and prove the player that I am.
How did that feel to get that call?
Amazing! We were watching the live feed online so it was really cool to see my name pop up and take the phone call. At the time I was trying to move out of my apartment so things were hectic but it was really cool to go home and celebrate with my family.
Once you joined Idaho Falls, did you ever have a “welcome to pro ball” moment?
I would say the biggest thing was going to the Spring training complex and seeing my name on my locker, not so much anything ‘in-game’. I was just really excited to start playing again since it had been two weeks since I’d played in the regional game. Another thing is being behind the scenes to see how the process works because you don’t know anything other than what you might see on TV.
I think everyone is aware of the tech and data movement in baseball. In regards to training and fine tuning your approach, how much access do you have to those tools and how often do you use them?
I’d say the biggest thing we used in Arizona that I hadn’t used before, was Rapsodo. To see how the ball spins, your exit velocity, what path your bat takes was really cool to see. I do think it’s something that guys can get too dependent on because you don’t want to overthink your mechanics but overall, it’s a good thing.
So, at the tail end of a very successful first pro season, Idaho Falls wins the Pioneer league championship. How does it feel to come right in and get that championship in your first season?
It was really cool and it’s something that the club obviously preached to us in having a desire to win championships. I think 3 or 4 of our farm teams won titles so that was great to come in and see all of the success the organization was having and be able to build off of that when we get back to Arizona.
Offseason and looking ahead:
Where are you training this offseason?
I’m back at school to get my lifting in and I hit with the team. Anyone who’s a prior player at Indiana State has access, which is great. I think we had 8 seniors starting last year so there are a lot of fresh faces but I like to answer their questions and help them as they begin their careers.
Heading into the offseason, what are you focusing on to improve your game?
I’d say my speed. That’s something that coming into school I wanted to work on because I was never a ‘fast guy’. Obviously, the Royals are big on trying to take advantage on the base paths. I have continued to get faster but that’s something I want to keep working on.
Today’s game has seen an influx of multi-positional players. Do you see that as a possibility down the road?
Yeah, definitely. As an infielder I take pride in being able to play three positions and look the part. That’s something we’ve done in the past in Arizona is being able to be work on second, third and shortstop and that’s something I’m going to continue to work on moving forward.
Favorite movie: Sandlot or Space Jam
Song: Country Music is my favorite but I don’t have a favorite song in particular. My walk-up song this year was ‘Never Go Home Again’ by Cody Johnson.
Food: Any kind of fish. The best I’ve caught was striper in Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.
Hobbies: Fishing is my favorite. My parents just moved a couple of years ago when I was in school so we’ve got a nice spot. I had a few other places I’d go around school and also Savannah, Ga.
Interesting fact: I’m terrified of spiders because I got bit by a brown recluse when I was twelve and almost had to have my leg amputated. The doctors said one or two weeks later and the infection may have taken over my entire leg.
College Major: Physical Education
Non-baseball Career: Teaching PE/Health and coaching.
Photo Credits: Stephen Smith – Four Seam Images