By KATIE EUBANKS
God doesn’t necessarily care who wins baseball games. That’s a startling statement coming from Ole Miss Baseball Hitting Coach Mike Clement — who helped propel the Rebels to their College World Series championship win last June — sitting with his wife, Amanda, in the Trehern Dugout Club in Oxford, while son Cooper entertains himself nearby.
Mike explains: “If you’re not convinced that there is something bigger than (a championship), then go win it and see what happens after. Life goes on. Even after you get what you’ve always wanted.”
Life has indeed continued in the months since Mike’s boys took the trophy. In fact, the Clements got a hint about their coming future before the championship run even started: They found out their second child would be a girl. Molly Lynn Clement was born November 4, 2022, after this interview was completed.
Parenting, marriage, and SEC coaching are a lot to manage, but God grows His children by calling them to hard things, and that’s exactly what He’s done with the Clements.
“The challenge always for us is to not feel too comfortable in any one spot — I mean spiritually,” Mike says. “Being able to make the next step. I don’t think we’re called to a place of comfort.”
Forced to rely on God and each other
While Amanda grew up in Kingwood, Texas, and became a Christian in eighth grade, Mike “probably was drug (to church) kicking and screaming” in Marshalltown, Iowa, he says. But his parents had a solution:
“(We knew) if we (could) be quiet in the balcony of the church and mind our manners in Sunday school, we’d get to go to Golden Corral afterwards, which would be the one time of the week we get to go out to eat.”
Mike’s relationship with Jesus started when he was 18, but “for 10 years, I was really lukewarm,” he says. “Then I was introduced to a guy who would be my spiritual mentor when I went to College Station as a 28-year-old man. (His name was) John Jordan.”
Since then, “it’s been a daily walk,” Mike says.
College Station, Texas, is where he met Amanda, through mutual friends who set them up. She was teaching kindergarten at a private Christian school that she loved — but she soon loved Mike even more. When he explained that he’d have to move around a lot as a coach, “I was like, with heart emojis, ‘OK…!’” she recalls.
Mike wasn’t kidding: Just three months after he and Amanda got engaged, he moved to Kansas. “I found out whether she really loved me,” he quips. Sure enough, they got married and she moved to Kansas too.
“It was tough,” she says. “There (were) mixed emotions — excitement to be married and explore what marriage was like. Leaving my family in College Station. Moving to a state that’s really cold part of the time.” She and Mike also had to find a church and a community in a place where they knew no one.
Also, “I traded my dream job for my dream man.”
However, when asked how she has found her identity outside of Mike and their family, Amanda says that isn’t really important to her. “I’m grateful and blessed. I waited (for a family) for a really long time. By the time I got my son, that’s all I wanted to do. I truly enjoy supporting (Mike).”
For two years, the Clements were on a steep learning curve as they figured out marriage, a new job and a new place all at the same time. But all of that made the move to Oxford that much easier “because I saw how (God) provided for us (in the first move),” Amanda says.
“It’s almost a gift to be forced to go on your own and rely on God and your spouse.”
Mike agrees: “She’s supposed to be the most important person here on earth for me, and vice versa, and that was easy because we had no other choice.”
‘A heavy burden that I love’
The Clements’ most consistent prayer as a couple has been “that God would use us,” Mike says, and they’ve kept that mentality since moving to Oxford eight years ago.
That means opening their home to Mike’s players and their girlfriends. It means Amanda mentoring young women. It means Mike telling his team he loves them — every day.
“Some of them would roll their eyes and say, ‘That’s Clem being Clem.’ (But) I’m not scared to tell them I love them,” Mike says. “We have this awesome job, but it’s because of the players.”
Mike and Amanda found a church home at Pinelake Oxford, and just as importantly, they’ve got a wonderful small group.
“(We wanted to) have a group praying for us, doing life with us, being there for the wins and the losses that are not in sport,” Amanda says.
Some of the losses have included struggling for six years to have Cooper, and struggling to conceive again afterward.
When the Clements finally learned they were pregnant again, “(Mike) was running to third base (at Swayze Field in Oxford), and I just gave him a thumbs up,” Amanda recalls.
As far as baseball travel is concerned, “It’s a family deal,” Mike says. “I don’t think it’d work if it wasn’t. … Where we are very different is, Amanda would like to be on the go all the time. I am really good at 100 miles per hour and zero. … If they don’t go with me, I stay in the hotel.”
For Amanda’s part, “as soon as I know where we’re going, I look at how close the children’s museum is,” she says. They also visit family (hers in Ohio, his in Iowa) as they’re able.
Last spring, they went on a trip that kept getting thrillingly extended — to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2022 College World Series.
Last season, “we had a really talented group of players,” Mike says. However, “we crashed in the middle of the season. In April, we played really poorly (and we) had to climb out.”
Climb out they did. “When we started post-season play, it felt different,” he says. “But to say we had a chance to win the national title, I don’t know that I would (have said) that.
“We were playing our best baseball. In our sport, getting hot and staying there is really important.”
In talking about the Rebs’ championship run, Mike references Hebrews 11:1, which gives the definition of faith: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
“I don’t want to take it out of context. But I know our players had that faith, both from baseball and from a faith standpoint,” he says. “I hope I taught them something, because they certainly have taught me something.”
When asked what they would tell the players who happen to read this article (or listen to the interview on the MCL podcast), Mike says:
“I would have to thank them for the impact they’ve made on me. … Them and their families have made such an impact on me and my family. I hope my son will treat a 3-year-old kid the way they’ve treated him.”
Amanda agrees. “My eyes welled up when you asked that,” she says. “I’ve had players on their hands and knees helping (Cooper) crawl, or getting him fruit snacks because they know he loves them, or showing up for his birthday party.”
The Clements have done their best to show God’s love to the players, too. And this year, they get to do it all over again.
“(Oxford is) an easy place to be comfortable at,” Mike says. However, “I continue to be pushed to understand how the Holy Spirit is pushing me to make an impact.”
Similarly, Amanda references the town’s informal nickname “The Velvet Ditch,” i.e., a place that’s so comfortable it’s hard to leave. “It took me awhile to understand what the term meant,” she says.
But again, “It’s not meant to be comfortable. Every year there’s a new opportunity with new players, families, girlfriends, and we do life with a new group of people.”
Mike describes his and Amanda’s calling perfectly:
“It’s a heavy burden that I love.”