A former All-America pitcher at NC State and a veteran of seven seasons of professional baseball, Clay Eason returned to his alma mater in the fall of 2003 and became the baseball program's director of operations.
A native of Dunn, N.C., Eason played for the Wolfpack from 1996-97, earning first-team All-America honors as a senior after compiling a 10-2 record with a 2.18 ERA and a four saves. He allowed just 42 hits in 62 innings while striking out 78. He limited opposing hitters to a .192 batting average for the season, and repeatedly came out of the bullpen and pitched his way out of difficult situations, stranding 28 of 37 inherited runners during the course of the season. He was only the fourth NC State pitcher and the second Wolfpack reliever to be named an All-American.
The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Eason in the 38th round of the 1997 June baseball draft, and he played the next three seasons in the Philadelphia organization, reaching Double-A Reading in 1999. That spring, he was called up to play for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre in an annual exhibition game against the major league Phillies, striking out the side in a scoreless ninth inning of work.
Eason played two seasons -- 2000 and 2001 -- in the independent Northern League, and was named the Northern League's Most Valuable Player in 2001 after posting a 10-3 record with a 1.70 ERA in 19 starts for the Lincoln Saltdogs. He led the league in ERA and strikeouts with 131 in 122 innings.
The Chicago White Sox signed Eason as a free agent following the 2001 season. He split the 2002 season between Charlotte of the Triple-A International League and Birmingham of the Double-A Southern League. He had an outstanding season for Birmingham, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.00 ERA and four saves. He allowed just 48 hits and struck out 60 in 68 innings of work. His superior work on the mound carried over to the postseason, when he helped lead the Barons to the Southern League championship. He won two games and saved another as Birmingham swept Jacksonville in the best-of-5 league championship series.
In 2003, Eason went to Chicago's major league spring training camp in Tucson, Ariz., before reporting to Charlotte to start the season. His '03 campaign was cut short in July when he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Eason will complete his B.A. degree in sports management from NC State in May 2004. He and his wife Holly were married on January 18, 2003, and currently reside in Dunn.