CLEMSON — Most every school has at least one legacy family — a family whose name is synonymous with athletics — and for the Clemson baseball and football programs, that name may be Spiers.
The legacy began in 1958 when Bud Spiers helped led the Clemson Tigers to the College World Series as he fielded .947 for the season, a record that stood for nearly three decades. The record was finally broken when Bill Spiers, Bud’s son, helped lead the Tigers to an NCAA Regional with a .950 fielding percentage.
Both father and son played for legendary coach Bill Wilhelm, and Bud was Wilhelm’s first player to sign a professional contract. Bill was the last first-round draft pick of Wilhelm’s 36-year career. But he was not the last Spiers to play for Wilhelm.
That honor was reserved for Bud’s other son and Bill’s brother, Michael.
Michael lettered in baseball from 1988-91, and during his time with the Tigers was a participant in the College World Series (1991) and a part of two ACC Championships (1989, 1991). Michael was also named the MVP of the ACC Baseball Tournament in 1991.
Following his playing career, Michael joined the baseball program for two seasons as an assistant coach for the Tigers.
That legacy of Clemson student-athletes has continued to the present day, as Bill’s son, Will, was the starting punter on Clemson’s football team last season, and Bud’s son, Carson, is a relief pitcher for the Tiger baseball team.
While Will’s season ended Saturday with the annual Orange and White game, true sophomore Carson is trying to help the Tigers return to postseason play for the 30th time in the last 31 seasons.
With a family legacy that stretches a country mile, Carson embraces the last name that he wears on his jersey — seeing it as a blessing and not additional pressure.
"Not at all. I feel like I'm blessed to have this opportunity to play here after my grandfather, my dad, my uncle all did,” Spiers said. “I feel like I'm extremely blessed to be able to carry on that tradition as a Spiers playing here. So I don't put any extra pressure on myself having that last name.
"It is nice to have family playing before me because a lot of guys know the Spiers name. When I walk to the ballpark, I feel like older people know who I am even if I don't know who they are. It's just awesome that they will be able to come up to me and say, 'Hey, I love watching you because I watched your grandfather play 30 years ago.' So, to me that's really special."
Even with two former major-leaguers in the family, and a father who was an MVP of the ACC Tournament, Carson does not turn to them for advice on the mound. Instead, he uses their understanding of the game and support to carry him.
“Knowing the game and how to play to the game, I always talk to my dad about things that go on in the game and things like that. My dad's always building me up with confidence. He thinks I'm the best player on the field, as I do. He's always there for me. He's going to support me no matter how well I do, or what I do. My uncle is going to be there for me as well. He knows how hard the game of baseball is. So he knows there are going to be ups and downs during the season,” he said.
Last season, Spiers appeared in only three games, while he finished the season with a 0-0 record and a 3.00 ERA. However, this season, he has appeared in 16 games and currently has the team’s fifth-best ERA (3.09) with 23 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .183.
"Last year, I feel like we had a very veteran staff - -we had a bunch of old guys on our staff,” he said. “So being a freshman last year, I felt like I just had to learn from all of those guys. I knew that I had good stuff and all of that, but I had to learn the mental part of pitching and overcoming if something bad happens. So having those veteran guys last year helped me out in that aspect.
"Then, this year, having the opportunity to go out there and compete. I know that I've had good stuff ever since I've gotten here. I believe in myself and having an opportunity to go out there has been all because of those veterans that we had last year. Having those guys last year really benefitted me this year."
Spiers’ biggest appearance last season came in the Clemson Regional against Vanderbilt, a game the Tigers eventually lost.
But it was in that loss – during which he threw 0.2 innings and allowed two hits, one run and two strikeouts -- that gave him the confidence he needed heading into his sophomore season.
"That was a big learning experience for me,” he said. “Obviously getting to play in that big environment against Vanderbilt -- getting my feet wet for this next season that I knew I was going to be in. Obviously, last year I wanted our team to go a little deeper in the playoffs, but we came up short. Having that experience last year really built my confidence up for this season."
The No. 12 Tigers (26-11, 11-7 ACC) and Spiers will try to get back on the winning track this weekend after dropping four of their last five games. The Tigers head to Winston-Salem to take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (18-20, 10-8 ACC) for a three-game series.
But even in the midst of their most recent skid, the Tigers are not lacking in the confidence department.
"We've had a little tough spurt,” Spiers said. “Winning in baseball is tough. We're in one of the toughest conferences in all of baseball and playing these tough teams makes it where you have to pretty much play perfect. If you make one mistake they're going to make you pay for it. We've just been having that one inning where teams are putting up four runs on us, or three runs on us -- having that big inning.
“I feel like we're going to get right back on track against Wake Forest this week. We've got three great starters for us that's going to keep us in the game -- give us five-plus innings I feel like. Our bullpen is going to shut everything down and our hitters are going to get going.”
With the Tigers facing one of the ACC’s top pitching staffs, Spiers understands the Tigers will need to be just as sharp if they want to emerge with a much-needed series victory.
“I mean, our pitching staff has been throwing the ball well,” he said. “We haven't been walking too many guys, we've just been getting hit a little bit. As long as we pound the zone, we feel like we have a great defense behind us that can make any plays for us.
"It's been a few tough games, but we've got a really good ballclub and we all know that. We're not lacking any confidence. We're going to Wake Forest knowing that we can beat them as many times as we have to."
Friday (6 p.m.), the Tigers will send Jacob Hennessey to the mound to take on Griffin Roberts. Tiger right-hander Brooks Crawford will get the call Saturday (4 p.m.) as he faces Morgan McSweeney. Sunday’s finale (1 p.m.) will feature Tiger left-hander Jake Higginbotham taking on Colin Peluse.
All three games can be seen on the ACC Network Extra.