Claremore High School senior Dalton Clifton made a life-long dream come true Tuesday morning with his signing to play college baseball at Northern Oklahoma College-Enid.
Clifton, who is expected to compete for the starting second base position this spring, said he’s glad to get this decision behind him and focus on the upcoming season.
“I’ve always wanted to go JUCO and then move to a bigger school,” Clifton said.
The decision to sign with NOC-Enid became rather easy for Clifton after seeing the facilities and meeting the coaching staff.
“Their indoor facility is top of the line and their stadium reminds me of a Minor League park,” Clifton said. “Plus, everyone down there felt like a family with their closeness.”
Clifton credited Claremore head baseball coach Brent Payne for his tutelage to helping him take his game to the next level.
“Coach Payne makes me work a lot harder and appreciate the coaching a lot more,” Clifton said.
“Also, the competition I face every day in practice makes me better.”
NOC-Enid assistant coach Scott Mansfield said he noticed Clifton at the O’Brien Showcase in Owasso and quickly envisioned the Claremore infielder making a difference in 2014 in Enid.
“Dalton’s one of those dirt-bag players that possesses good hands, swings the bat well and has a strong arm to make those difficult throws across the diamond,” Mansfield said.
“He’s definitely going to fit in well with our program and we’re excited to have him.”
Mansfield added that Clifton will be looked upon as a middle infielder or third baseman.
“Hopefully, if he comes in and does everything right, he’ll being getting a lot of reps,” Mansfield said.
What sold Mansfield the most on Clifton was his competitive spirit.
“All he wants to do is play baseball,” Mansfield said. “He’s got that competitive mentality and the tools that you can’t teach.”
Mansfield also credited the Claremore baseball program as being a strong asset to the state of Oklahoma.
“The kids that we get from Claremore come in knowing how to compete,” Mansfield said.
“That’s a credit to Coach Payne and his assistants. Year in and year out, they’re always competing at the highest level and playing for championships.”
For Clifton, the transition from Claremore to NOC-Enid, according to Mansfield, should be easy.
“Dalton shouldn’t have that big of shift,” he said. “He’s the kind of player we want representing our program.”
Clifton added that NOC-Enid’s motto was another selling point to his overall decision.
“Their motto is to outwork the nation, and that’s what sold me,” Clifton said.
For now, though, Clifton plans to ‘outwork the state’ and help lead Claremore back to the Class 5A State Tournament.