SLOCOMB, Ala. (WDHN) — Slocomb High School added a page to its history books retiring the jersey of a former Red Top and now New York Yankee.
Before he was a professional Clay Holmes was a star on the mound for the Wiregrass school.
“It’s definitely an honor and a blessing just to be able to come back home,” Holmes said.
The 2011 Slocomb valedictorian earned All-State honors and a full ride to Auburn to play college baseball.
He never made it to the Plains as he was drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates, eventually making his MLB debut in 2018.
The Pirates traded Holmes to the Yankees during the 2021 season and in 2022 he had a breakout year becoming one of the top relievers in baseball.
Making his first All-Star appearance, Holmes led the Yankees bullpen with 20 saves and a 2.54 ERA across 62 games.
Holmes’ 65 punch out’s propelled the Yankees’ pen to the third-best combined ERA of any unit in the MLB.
On Friday school officials, his family, and young Red Tops celebrated his success retiring jersey number 21.
“It’s about much more than me. There’s been a lot of people who pour into me and impact me.”
Holmes shared the mindset that’s guided him to where he is now.
Let who you want to be in the future affect how you live today.
“When you keep those visions and dreams in the forefront of your mind it’s easy to make decisions that are right and necessary here in the moment.”
After the ceremony, Holmes spent time with the Slocomb baseball team.
He hopes he can be an inspiration to young athletes.
“Even though you’re maybe here in a smaller school in the Wiregrass, with some hard work and a lot of time I think some good things can happen.”
Being home brings back memories of his time as a Red Top, including their senior year first-round playoff defeat of Trinity, the number one team in the state.
“It was just fun competing with those guys. The game was pure. You played to win and that was about it.”
Winning is still just as important although now it’s for World Series rings instead of blue maps.
Holmes took over as New York’s closer last May when Aroldis Chapman got injured.
Holmes does not yet know if he will be the closer in 2023, but he believes he ended last season on a positive note.
“I think honestly it all comes down to just being ready to pitch whenever your name’s called and having the mindset that you’re trying to help the team win really. No matter what that is.”
Holmes says while having number 21 retired at Slocomb is special wearing 35 means more to him.
His father and younger brother wore 35 in high school as well as MLB Mall of Famer Mike Messina.
After spending the weekend at home with family Holmes will head onto spring training.
He says he is ready to roll and excited to share the field with his Yankees teammates again.