Dragons catcher proving to be good fit following trade from Dodgers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Dragons catcher Hendrik Clementina had a 3-run homer in a 9-3 defeat of visiting Lake County at Fifth Third Field on Wed., April 11, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Hendrik Clementina was riding high when his professional baseball career shifted.

He was on a rare plane trip to Oregon for last year’s Pioneer League All-Star game for rookie minor-leaguers as a member of the Ogden Raptors. After landing, he was told he couldn’t play in the game because he had been traded by the Dodgers to the Reds.

“I was very nervous,” the Dragons catcher recalled following Wednesday night’s 9-3 defeat of visiting Lake County at Fifth Third Field.

“That was the last thing I expected. There were a lot of scouts coming to the (Raptors) games, but I didn’t expect that.”

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Sure enough, the deal essentially was left-handed pitcher Tony Cingrani for Clementina, a catcher from the island paradise Curacao and its capital city Willemstad. Also obtained by the Reds was outfielder Scott Van Slyke – Andy’s son – who was dropped within days of that late July deal.

Clementina had already played against most of his current Dragons teammates, who were with Billings, Mont., in the Pioneer League, also.

“Luckily, I knew a lot of these guys (current Dragons players),” he said. “We played a lot against each other in Arizona. As soon as I got to Billings, I was comfortable.”

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Clementina and Mark Kolozsvary have platooned as the Dragons starting catcher. A third catcher, Canadian Morgan Lofstrom, will mostly DH and catch day games.

Clementina showed why he was high on the Dodgers’ radar on Wednesday, launching a three-run rocket over the left-field wall. That was part of a four-run third inning.

“Coming over from the Dodgers, I think we really got something there,” said Reds roving catcher instructor Corky Miller, who has anchored at Dayton this week. “He’s learning and he’s a smart guy. We knew he can hit.”

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Dragons OF Narciso Crook. The Dragons defeated the visiting Lake County Captains 9-3 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Wed., April 11, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Dragons OF Narciso Crook. The Dragons defeated the visiting Lake County Captains 9-3 at Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Wed., April 11, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Dragons outfielder Narciso Crook also had a monster effort with three hits – including a triple and double – and four RBIs. Dragons starting pitcher Mac Sceroler (1-1) earned the win. He allowed six hits and three earned runs in six innings. He also struck out four and walked one.

That added up to the streaking Dragons’ fourth straight win following an 0-3 season start. The Captains (4-3) lost their third straight.

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Clementina is fluent in four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamentu, a creole-sounding and Portuguese-based dialect that’s a Curacao favorite. His first name has its roots in Curacao’s constituent status to the Netherlands.

Former Dragons shortstops Didi Gregorius and Calten Daal also were from Curacao, about 40 miles north of Venezuela’s shoreline.

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Clementina quickly bonded with his current teammates, at Billings and Dayton. What he’s still getting used to is the Midwest winter-extended conditions.

“It’s different because this is the first time I’ve played in this kind of weather,” he said. “I’m from Curacao, and it’s always hot down there. This was the first time I’d seen snow.”

And how did that work out? Go sledding? Build a snowman? Have a snowball fight? “No,” he said. “It’s very cold.”

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Dragons tales: High school baseball will return to Fifth Third Field when the Dragons are on spring road trips. The opening two games are Saturday: Fort Recovery vs. Alter at 1 p.m., then Franklin Monroe vs. Arcanum at 4 p.m.

Games are free to spectators and serve as team fund-raisers (concessions). There will be 15 games through May 3, including four doubleheaders and a tripleheader on Saturday, April 21.

This is the 13th season high school baseball will be featured at the stadium. The series is sponsored by the Army High School Baseball Program.

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Lake County at Dayton, 7 p.m.

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