When any of the new Orem Owlz players need some advice on the local restaurants or hot spots, they know just who to call.
Former BYU standout David Clawson begins his second season in professional baseball on Friday when the Owlz host the Rocky Mountain Vibes at UCCU Ballpark. Clawson played two years for the Cougars and was drafted by the Los Angeles Angles in the 37th round in 2018. He played 24 games with the Arizona League Angels and 12 games with the Owlz after getting called up in late July of last year.
After attending spring training and extended spring training, Clawson is one of nearly a dozen players with Owlz experience assigned to Orem.
“Yeah, I’m the go-to guy from recommending restaurants and things like that,” Clawson said. “At extended spring training you’re just working on your individual skills and trying to master them. Luckily for me I got sent home to Orem to play with the Owlz again, so I’m pretty excited about it.”
During the offseason, Clawson worked with Norton Performance in Lehi to increase his strength.
“I took a couple of months off and got back at in January,” Clawson said. “I did strength and endurance training, just trying to build more muscle mass and I worked on my swing and my arm.”
Clawson said he will be playing first base and getting a few games as a catcher while swinging a left-handed bat in the Owlz lineup.
“I’m absolutely ready for the grind,” Clawson said. “I’m excited to work with the new guys. Playing every single day is truly a great experience. It’s an awesome because it’s a lot baseball. You’re here just about all day. It’s really invaluable experience to give it your best shot and see what happens.”
A new coaching staff, led by manager Jack Santora, is in place and Clawson is familiar with their style and system.
“I played for this coaching staff in the Arizona League last year,” Clawson said. “He (Santora) is a total player’s coach. He loves his players and is loyal to them. He provides a lot of positive reinforcement, but he can lay down the law when he needs to.”
Santora played college baseball at UCLA and was selected in the 19th round of the 1999 major league draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He played 18 years in pro ball, including seven in the Italian Minor Leagues, before getting into coaching.
“We have a process (from the parent club) and we follow it,” Santora said. “We are just trying to get the players in the right mindset and prepared to play every game. The thing that I stress with them constantly is to play the game like it’s their last. At the end of the day, good or bad, fail or success, we want them to walk away with their head held high ready for the next day. That’s what I like to see from my guys when they take the field and when they come off.”
The Owlz organization has won five Pioneer League titles — the last in 2016 — but finished 22-54 overall last season, 24 games out of first place. Santora has four new coaches: Brain Garman and Tanner Reklaitis for pitching and Ryan Sebra and Casey Shaw for hitting. In addition, former BYU standout and major leaguer Cory Snyder has joined the organization as the Director of Public Relations.
The Angels have assigned 2019 first-round pick Will Wilson, a shortstop, to the Owlz this spring. As a sophomore at North Carolina State, Wilson hit .307 with 15 home runs and 53 RBI in 59 games and was named ACC Defender of the Year.
Wilson — the No. 15 pick overall — just returned from Los Angeles, where the Angels invited him to a game and to sign his contract, with a bonus that is reportedly worth $3.4 million.
“Coming out here I plan to be a little more consistent defensively and control the strike zone a little better,” Wilson said. “I want to make sure my body is ready to play every day. The organization really helps us take care of our bodies well. I want to work hard every day and compete to be the best player I can.”
There was some drama last year when it was revealed that owner Jeff Katofsky and the Owlz were set to move to Pueblo, Colo., in 2020, but the deal fell through. In April, a story written by Kevin Reichard of Ballpark Digest suggested the Owlz were being considered as a possible new tenant in Edmonton’s RE/MAX Field.
The Owlz opener on Friday against Rocky Mountain includes fireworks after the game, while Saturday features Luau Night.