El Campo senior catcher Clay Jung was one of five District 25 all-state baseball players last year and the only one slated for a return this season with the other four graduating.
With a promising baseball season ahead of him, a hit during football nearly derailed everything. Like many athletes in El Campo, Jung plays more than one sport, and in football won the Ricebirds starting quarterback job. During the team’s first district game against Needville, Jung fell wrong on a quarterback keeper and injured his knee, ended his night, and nearly the rest of his senior year.
“It’s one of those things when your whole future kind of flashes before your eyes,” Jung said. “Wow that just took out the rest of my high school sports career and I’m trying to go on and play baseball somewhere, so that’s going to be tough.”
While it was scary at the time, Jung eventually learned his knee wasn’t going to need any surgery and it would heal on its own.
“It was a real big stress reliever when I found out it didn’t need surgery,” Jung said.
For the rest of the Ricebirds football season, once he could move around again, Jung worked to rebuild range and mobility back in his knee. The El Campo senior did leg raises and moved to riding a stationary bike along with ice and heat on his knee. Once his knee felt strong enough, he started doing agility work as he continued to build his whole leg back to normal.
Playing baseball for the Ricebirds now, his knee isn’t a thought anymore.
With everything back to normal, Jung is looking to finish his baseball career on a high note. As a junior, Jung hit .371 and had a .476 on-base percentage in district.
Since joining the varsity team as a sophomore, he’s been able to improve his game each season. As a sophomore, he was named to the all-district first-team and last year was an all-state honorable mention.
“I was real pumped up to be on varsity (my sophomore year) that only thing was I struggled real bad at the plate. I’ve always been pretty defensively sound and my growth has been at the plate.”
From his sophomore to junior year, he improved his batting average nearly 200 points. This year, with the season in non-district play, is batting .384 along with a .500 on-base percentage. Jung has even added speed to his game, grabbing six stolen bases.
Jung felt his summer league coach, who he takes hitting lessons from weekly, was the reason behind his improved batting. While it wasn’t the biggest of changes, a readjustment of how he gripped the bat along with added confidence worked wonders for him.
“It was just the little things,” Jung said. “I always had pretty good pop, it was just getting everything to function how it should.”
With his senior season under way, Jung is hoping his play will earn a college scholarship. He’s been looked at by different schools and has gone on visits, but the offer has eluded him so far.
“If I can just show consistent growth and hit the ball hard, I’ll be good,” Jung said.
There is a little uncertainty for not only Jung but all of the Ricebirds going forward. After working so hard to get back to play baseball this season, the covid-19 virus has caused Sealy, Brookshire Royal, Needville and Stafford to all shut down next week.
With baseball up in the air, the hope is Jung and the Ricebirds’ baseball season will continue after the delay.