JC Cloney makes his mark on the mound for UA
Arizona pitcher JC Cloney (27) throws downfield during a game against UCLA in Tucson.
Arizona senior left handed pitcher JC Cloney has made himself at home at Hi Corbett Field where he shows nothing but leadership and success when on the mound.
Growing up in Castaic, Calif., Cloney was always involved on a sport depending on the season whether it was baseball, basketball or soccer. At 12-years-old Cloney was playing with the PONY baseball league where his coach recognized that he was a left-handed pitcher and introduced him to pitching coach Jim Wagner.
“They asked me to help with his pitching,” said Wagner. “Being a left handed pitcher is somewhat of a blessing and for his size he was a pretty good athlete.”
When Cloney attended West Ranch High School he turned all his focus onto baseball where he hoped to one day go big. Wagner worked with Cloney on his pitching throughout high school and continued to see the dedication and the effort he was putting forth into becoming successful on the mound.
Committing to Long Beach State out of high school, Cloney was unable to play his first year due elbow issues. Unable to throw during the season, coaches put Cloney in a Tommy John rehab for three months.
“It was very difficult for him to sit and watch everyone else play,” said father Tim Cloney,” but he never said he wanted to quit at that point. It was all about doing what he needed to do to get healthy and back on the field.”
Cloney decided to leave Long Beach State and attend The College of Canyons in Santa Clarita, Calif. Three months into his first semester at COC, Cloney ended up having surgery where he was out for another seven weeks.
“I came back started the second game of the year and did my two years,” said Cloney. “The junior college was two minutes from my house so it was a no brainer to go there. I was healthy and I got right back into throwing. I didn’t miss a beat.”
After going through many obstacles through his first couple years in collegiate baseball, Cloney eventually landed at the University of Arizona. Head coach Jay Johnson knew what Cloney had to offer and didn’t hesitate to give him the chance he has been waiting for.
Cloney became Arizona’s star pitcher after helping lead the team to the 2016 College World Series and threw 16 scoreless innings in Omaha. While Cloney was excelling on the mound he was also excelling academically.
Recently graduating with a degree in psychology Cloney has always been enthralled with the mind and how people react to different things, but does not want to pursue a career in his major.
“Being a baseball player, it is a mental game and mental toughness kind of allows you to keep the success rolling,” said Cloney. “For me psychology is learning why people react the way they do and it intrigued me, so I got into that and just went with it.”
After graduating Cloney was unsure which direction he should go with his future whether it was continue to play for another year at Arizona or move back to Calif. and begin his career in law enforcement.
Cloney made the decision to play another year at Arizona and continue to lead the team. But in order to continue in baseball, Cloney needed to get accepted into a graduate program.
“It was kind of just asking any masters program to accept me and they [journalism] were the first ones to do it,” said Cloney. “And when we were pushing the limit on coming back to school we just said alright get me into the program and we went from there."
Cloney dominated in the season opening game over Eastern Kentucky as he threw seven shutout innings. Cloney continued to lead the team as Arizona’s Friday night pitcher, but gave Arizona fans a scare during a mid-season game.
In game one of three against Washington State, Cloney was pulled from the mound after facing just one batter due to a bicep injury.
“It was 38 degrees at game time and being here [Arizona] you are used to 90 degrees,” said Cloney, “so I just don’t think my body warmed up enough because I couldn’t even break a sweat out there running. I think it was really tight and trying to put max effort into it just wasn’t having it and wasn’t having it. It was just a freak little injury, but I wasn’t worried.”
Cloney was able to recover and make his appearance against the Oregon Ducks where he went six innings allowing three runs with five strikeouts. Cloney stays on top of the mound leading the younger pitchers and mentoring them along the way.
“It is an honor be here,” said Cloney. “I’ve always wanted to help people and for the young guys if they have questions they know they can ask me. I love watching people succeed. It is nice that they are comfortable asking me questions. I remember when I was on Long Beach I was on my own little island, so I don’t want anyone here feeling that way.”
Alongside Cloney you will always find his parents Tim and Rosanne cheering him on and being his main supporters throughout his baseball journey. Cloney’s father Tim Cloney has started his own new tradition at the UA where he tosses out tootsie rolls to the fans to make everyone feel welcome.
“We were out to dinner one night and someone noticed him [Tim] before they noticed me,” said Cloney. “But he started it because when we were at Utah last year and their fans were throwing candy, but not giving it to Arizona. So the next day my dad brought out tootsie rolls and gave it to our fans to make them feel welcomed and it just stuck.”
With the support of many, Cloney continues to stay driven and focused leaving a legacy at the UA. While he finishes out his masters and baseball career he hopes to one day get drafted into the MLB.
“I am very proud of everything he has done,” said Tim. “Whether he continues with baseball or in the direction of his career, I just know he will be successful because he is a very driven person and puts his mind to whatever he needs to do.”
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