Hitting is as much a part of Kyle Clifton’s persona as breathing.

Hitting is as much a part of Kyle Clifton’s persona as breathing.

That’s why the former Truman High School standout and member of The Examiner’s 2009 All-Area baseball team had to find a new college home after one year at Crowder College.

“They kept tinkering with everything hitting-wise, and I just didn’t feel comfortable,” said Clifton, a sophomore at Park University where he is tearing it up for the 21-11 Pirates baseball team.

“When I got to Crowder, they started changing my swing, and I never felt comfortable. I don’t like change when it comes to my swing. So after one year, I started looking for a new school.”

He found a home at Park, where he is hitting .379 (second on the team), with 36 hits (first), three triples (first), five home runs (tied for first) and 27 RBIs (fourth).

“I feel comfortable again, and you can see it in my average and my power numbers,” Clifton said. “To me, hitting is all about comfort, and I’m as comfortable here as I was back in high school.”

Clifton, who plays third base for the Pirates, was a catcher and infielder at Truman and was named to the all-state team after hitting .466 with five homers, 16 runs scored, 31 RBIs and a .795 slugging percentage his senior year.

The summer following that memorable prep season, he was named the MVP of the American Legion Fifth District All-Star Game, where he hit a double, had two homers and knocked in four runs in a losing cause, as the National League squad beat his American Leaguers 9-6.

“The kid had a great game,” American League manager Mike Gailey said at the time. “He hit those two (homers) hard – really hard.”

National League pitcher Andrew Rider just grinned when asked about pitching while Clifton was on the bench.

“I’ve been over to his house, and he has the nets, the hitting tees. You can tell that hitting is pretty important to him,” Rider said at the time. “And he hit those balls a mile tonight.”

David Richards, who edged Clifton for The Examiner’s High School Player of the Year in 2009, was a former teammate of the Truman slugger when he lived in Independence.

“The guy can crush it,” Richards said. “Two (homers) in an all-star game. That’s just sick. He really crushed the second one.”

If Clifton isn’t hitting a baseball for the Pirates, or hitting the books in the classroom, there is a good chance he can be found hitting a ball off a tee or finding someone to provide some live pitching.

From his junior year in high school through his first year at Crowder, he and his parents would look for elite summer camps he could attend to hone his skills.

“We have relatives in Arizona, so I went to a lot of invitation-only camps sponsored by UnderArmour,” Clifton said. “I’d see pitching in the high 80s and low 90s, and that really prepared me for college. I’d hit against pitchers from the Yankees and Braves prospect teams.

“The transition from high school to college pitching was a little bit tougher than I thought it would be, because in college everyone specializes in something. You have your starters, your set-up guys, your closers, and they’re all good.

“You can catch a pitcher in high school who might be a full-time infielder who does a little bit of pitching, but you won’t find anyone like that at the college level.”

Although he’s enjoying a stellar season, and yes – he feels comfortable at the plate – Clifton continues to work on his game.

“There’s always someone out there working to be better than you,” he said. “I’ll never stop working. The more success I have, the more I want to work. I love playing baseball and right now, I’m having as much fun as I’ve ever had.”