During the month of September, our Alumni Spotlight is going to profile some of our 2018 Belmont Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees.
Our next profile is Clay Sanders.
Sanders was a foundational player on the diamond for legendary baseball coach Dave Whitten, as the Bruins transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division I. The Hendersonville, Tennessee native graduated among Belmont's career leaders in batting average, hits, total bases and runs batted in. The shortstop and team captain was named all-conference as a senior, and led Belmont to victories over established NCAA programs like Troy, North Alabama and IUPUI. Sanders remains among the Bruins' single-season leaders in batting (.385).
Sanders is the first baseball player inducted to the Belmont Athletic Hall of Fame since Grant Martin in 2015.
Clay recently spoke to BelmontBruins.com about his time at Belmont and his current life with his family in his hometown of Hendersonville.
Why did you choose Belmont?
I felt extremely comfortable with Belmont as a college choice after the first conversation I had with Coach Whitten. It was and is a highly respected academic university and that was important to me. I was also drawn to the smaller class sizes and the benefits that provided to students. Belmont was also not too far from home which was something else that appealed to me.
What is your fondest athletic memory at Belmont?
Over the course of my career at Belmont there are many moments that stand out. I was lucky enough to play with some great teammates that provided some great moments. I played in a perfect game pitched by Kelly Holman and a no-hitter thrown by Lance Sewell. We had some intense games that turned out to be big wins. But the majority of my fondest athletic memories are more about the teammates I share them with.
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Belmont?
It is impossible to put into just a few words the impact that Coach Whitten had on me as a player, and as a person. One thing I recall as a player, were the small, seemingly insignificant moments that he would choose to impart a priceless piece of knowledge in the simplest of ways. I was also always struck by the way he went about his work with diligence and humility. The quiet leadership he showed in all that he did was a tremendous example to me.
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Belmont?
The most valuable thing I gained in my time at Belmont are the relationships. From the lifelong friendships I have with my teammates, to the classmates I remain connected with.
What advice would you give to current members of the baseballl team?
No baseball advice I could give would top what they get from Coach Jarvis, so I will speak to growing as teammates. Go home with a teammate over break or take a teammate or two home during break. The perspective gained from spending time in a friend's home environment will immeasurably strengthen those friendships. Plus, as evident by my own mom, mothers love to mother their children’s friends and they love getting to know who they spend time with. Road trips home make for some great memories and great stories years later, too.
Who was your favorite professor and why?
The most encouraging and motivating person on campus was Betty Wiseman. She went far above and beyond in her efforts to provide support to all students. But I personally owe her a huge debt of gratitude for the guidance and support she provided me in my time at Belmont. Her smile was infectious and comforting in a way that, as an aimless college student, I was ever so grateful to see each time our paths crossed.
Where do you live now?
I live in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
Who is your employer?
I have been in public education for 20 years. I am currently employed by the Tennessee Department of Education as a Mathematics Strategy and Support Coordinator. I provide support to K-12 teachers and districts across the state in regards to standards and assessment.
Tell us about your family.
In 1999 I married Tressa Copley, a Lipscomb alum, during Spring Break of my first year as a high school coach. As I am still coaching high school baseball at Hendersonville, we have celebrated our anniversary at a ballgame at a ballpark somewhere every year since. Tressa taught a variety of grade levels and served as an instructional leader in two school districts. She is now Principal at Jack Anderson Elementary in Hendersonville, TN.
Our oldest son, Caid, is 16 and a junior at Hendersonville High School. Caid plays baseball at Hendersonville where he is also an honors student. He is very involved in Full Count Ministries and has been on baseball mission trips twice to Nicaragua.
Kylie, our daughter, is 14. She has played basketball throughout middle school and will do so at Hendersonville High School this season, as well, as a freshman. Kylie is an honors student and enjoys many forms of art as well.
Whitten, age 5, is our youngest son. He enjoys baseball, basketball, golf and all water sports.