The following appears in the March issue of Orange: The Experience.
It was always Evan Estridge’s dream to wear the orange and purple while playing baseball for Clemson. His dream took a different path than he had hoped, but it eventually came true, nonetheless.
Estridge was named region pitcher-of-the-year and was a key part of the Chapin High School team that won the region title the same year. Estridge went on to play at Newberry, where he was 5-3 with a 4.63 ERA and earned a spot as a weekend starter as a freshman.
After a strong freshman campaign, Estridge was named First-Team All-South Atlantic Conference. He was primed for a big year and was ready to be a leader as well as a reliable arm for Newberry, but after a few uncharacteristic outings, Estridge struggled, both mentally and physically.
“I was dreading coming to the baseball field. By the end of the year, I knew I needed to change something for next year.”
Following a disappointing sophomore season, Estridge knew that he needed to change something in his approach for him to be successful. He went to a Friday night game at Doug Kingsmore Stadium shortly after his season was finished and was blown away by the environment.
“I have seen a lot of Clemson games on television, but seeing it in person was different. The atmosphere at Doug Kingsmore Stadium is second to none, and that is what sold me to come to Clemson.”
When the game was over, Estridge’s mother asked him what his plan for the upcoming season would be. He told his mother that Clemson was always his dream school and he wanted to play for the Tigers. His parents supported him 100 percent and were looking for a way to help him realize his dream of wearing a Tiger uniform.
After Estridge got his release from Newberry and enrolled at Clemson in the fall of 2018, he knew he had no guarantee of earning a spot on the team. Estridge worked every day to prove he belonged. Once Estridge made the team, NCAA rules mandated that he sit out one year, but he wanted to prove to himself and to his teammates that he belonged in the ACC.
“Every time I hit the field, I had something to prove. Every time I threw a bullpen session, I had a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to show that I was there to help us win games, not to just wear the jersey.”
With every opportunity Estridge had in practice, he tried to take advantage of it. He wanted to prove to himself that he could compete in one of the best conferences in the nation after an underwhelming sophomore season at Newberry.
That following summer, he pitched in the Coastal Plain League, where he gained back some of his confidence. He pitched very well and earned a spot on the All-Star team.
“That definitely gave me confidence. My teammates saw my stats, but I still wanted to prove myself.”
Even after a successful summer, Estridge knew there was more to prove when he returned to campus.
During his transfer year, Estridge was trying to adjust to a new school and a new team. The most important things that happened were making connections and relationships with his new teammates.
“I wanted to show up every day and be a good teammate and build connections with the guys. I do not try to go out and be the top dog. I just try to make relationships that will last and lead by example.”
All of that time building connections and relationships with his teammates paid off when, earlier this year, he was voted by his teammates as one of the two team captains for the 2021 season, joining catcher Adam Hackenberg. Estridge reflected on the moment when he received the honor.
“When Coach (Monte) Lee told me that I was going to be a team captain, it was a little overwhelming because, to be a kid who dreamed to play at Clemson and then not go to Clemson out of high school, I never thought that I would be playing for Clemson, much less be named a captain.”
It is easy to see how much being a captain means to Estridge, and it is a responsibility he does not take for granted.
Estridge’s favorite moment so far at Clemson occurred during the South Carolina series in 2020.
“When they cut the music during the fight song and I heard the fans spell out ‘C-L-E-M-S-O-N’ … that was crazy. It speaks to the Doug Kingsmore Stadium environment and how it is a fun place to play.”
Clemson has helped Estridge out in many ways, not just in baseball.
“Transferring from a small school like Newberry to a big school like Clemson, the Nieri Family Student-Athlete Enrichment Center is big for me, especially my academic advisor, Lindsey Ricketts, who helps us in so many ways. The tutoring, the career development, which helps us make connections for life after baseball, and everything else at our disposal are amazing and help us out tremendously.
“I am thankful for every opportunity and every teammate, as well as everyone who has helped me get this far.”
The resources at the Nieri Center also helped Estridge become a member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll last year.
Estridge’s journey is unique and has shaped him into the player and leader he is today. With every obstacle Estridge faced, he never quit. This allowed him to not get down on himself when he was struggling at Newberry. Rather, Estridge learned from his mistakes, and now, he is living out his dream at Clemson.
For Estridge, his determination and work ethic are valuable assets not only to his team but his university, as he strives to be a leader each and every day for Coach Lee and his team. From Newberry to Clemson, his journey may be different, but the future is bright for Estridge, who is a key player for the Tigers this spring as they strive to reach the College World Series.