Clemson pitcher being treated for cancer glad Red Sox drafted him

The Red Sox drafted Clemson's Clate Schmidt in the 32nd round of last week's draft. Liz Condo/USA TODAY Sports

The experience of being drafted by a Major League Baseball team isn't anything new to Clemson pitcher Clate Schmidt. In 2012, the 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher was taken by the Detroit Tigers out of Allatoona High School in his hometown of Acworth, Georgia, making him a repeat selection when the Boston Red Sox selected him last week.

The second time was different though. It was much more meaningful.

On Wednesday, the same day the Red Sox used a 32nd-round pick on him, Schmidt underwent his first of four scheduled chemo treatments for nodular sclerosing Hodgkin lymphoma. He's just started his battle. There's plenty ahead, including three weeks of radiation treatment later this summer.

He says his initial chemo session went well, but the following days have been worse. He's tried to keep busy around the house, but the energy the 21-year-old athlete is used to having simply hasn't been there.

But the feeling of joy that overcame him when the Red Sox called last week has helped get him through.

"When you get that call, that's what you think of, all the hard work that you've done through your entire life up to that moment. You think that finally it's paid off," Schmidt said in a phone interview. "All those days when you got up early to throw or hit or lift -- that's what it brings you to."

As Schmidt sees it, it's all been part of the plan.

He talks about the path that took him to Clemson. As a four-time All-Cobb County selection, Schmidt was ranked the No. 14 recruit in Georgia by Baseball America. Still, he's convinced that had he turned pro and signed with Detroit out of high school, it wouldn't have worked out.

"I was an immature kid," he said.

He did have the self-knowledge to plot out his future, however. His goal was to get his college degree, and he thought the time developing mentally and physically at Clemson would do him well.

Mike Rikard, Boston's director of amateur scouting, said Schmidt had been on the Red Sox's radar for a while.

"I'd seen a lot of Clate going back through the years to high school, when he played in the Perfect Game All-American showcase," Rikard said. "He did very well there from what I remembered. I think he had a 1-2-3 inning."

This year, his junior season at Clemson, Schmidt made 18 appearances with six starts. He went 2-3 with a 4.67 ERA over 52 innings.

Early in the year, Schmidt noticed some swelling of his lymph nodes atop the collarbone on the left shoulder. Thinking it was an infection, Clemson's trainers gave him antibiotics. When the mass remained weeks later, Schmidt became concerned. He missed the Tigers' season-ending series at Florida State to have a biopsy, which came back inconclusive. After doctors removed a section of the tumor in a second biopsy, they made a diagnosis.

As word reached Rikard's desk, his staff resolved to do what it felt was right.

"We made it a plan that as we progressed through the draft that we'd make sure we selected him," Rikard said. "We knew he was a Red Sox fan and, from our scout, we heard how much of a wonderful kid Clate is. More so than anything, we considered it an honor to select him."

Schmidt grew up an Atlanta Braves fan but had been exposed to the history of Fenway Park in a couple of visits -- first as a member of the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League after his freshman season and then with Clemson in a visit to Boston College earlier this year.

He also took a liking to former Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester, who had his own bout with lymphoma in 2006.

"I was always a fan of Jon Lester because watching the way he pitches, it's not as though he's violent, but his attitude toward every pitch was just incredible," Schmidt said. "It's just how you have to attack cancer, too. You have to look at it like it's another hitter that's put in front of you. You have to be able to attack him; you have to do it head-on and be a bulldog and go right at it.

"That's how I envisioned him, not only as a pitcher but during his treatment."

Despite his current situation, Schmidt still sees himself as a future major leaguer. His foremost priority is his health, but he's committed to finishing his degree on schedule next year and returning for another baseball season at Clemson.

After that, Schmidt would face an uphill battle to the big leagues, but he said he believes that's all part of the grand design.

"Once I have that set, then I know the path that God will send me down has been set," he said.