From BR Bullpen
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 215 lb.
Clayton Byrne spent six seasons in the minors, reaching AAA, but never got to the majors. He also played in his native Australia for 11 years, winning one playoff MVP award. Byrne appeared in Taiwan for one season and in the Olympics. Almost strictly an outfielder in the US, Byrne alternated between the outfield and third base in Australia.
Byrne went 3 for 6 as a rookie for the Perth Heat in the 1989-1990 Australian Baseball League. In 1990-1991, he batted .282/.288/.427 with only one walk in 36 games being the lone negative. He made his US debut that summer, playing for the Bluefield Orioles (.321/~.373/.439 in 54 G) and Kane County Cougars (.212/~.226/.269 in 26 G). He was only 8 for 25 in steal attempts for Bluefield, leading the Appalachian League in times caught stealing. On the other hand, he also was 4th in the loop in average behind Ricky Otero, Quilvio Veras and Manny Ramirez. He made the Appy League All-Star outfield alongside Otero and Ramirez.
Clayton hit .293/.354/.469 for Perth in 1991-1992 in a solid campaign, continuing to progress, especially in terms of drawing free passes. The 20-year-old produced at a .225/.253/.288 rate for the '92 Cougars with 13 walks to 74 strikeouts. He was no match for outfield mates Alex Ochoa and Curtis Goodwin, both of whom would go on to The Show.
In the 1992-1993 ABL, the Western Australian hit .339/.387/.452 to place fifth in the league in batting average. With the 1993 Albany Polecats, he batted .276/.338/.385 with 23 steals in 34 tries and a career-high 42 walks. He was arguably the team's best outfielder this time around; one of his teammates in the outfield was a fellow Aussie, Scott Metcalf.
Byrne hit .338/.393/.451 for Perth in 1993-1994. He was 4th in the league in average behind Homer Bush, Dave Nilsson and Greg Jelks, all of whom would play or had played in the majors. He made his first ABL All-Star team as the backup at third base to Brendan Kingman.
In the summer of '94, Byrne hit .286/.333/.452 for the Frederick Keys, .221/.235/.263 in 26 games for the Bowie Baysox and struck out in both of his at-bats for the Rochester Red Wings in his only look at AAA. He just missed the Carolina League's top 10 in average.
For Perth in the winter of 1994-1995, Clayton had a batting line of .279/.348/.459 and joined Adam Burton and Peter Vogler in the second-team All-Star outfield. In 1995, he spent his last season of five in the Baltimore Orioles chain. He hit .236/.273/.322 in 54 games for the High Desert Mavericks, .228/.255/.346 in 35 for the Frederick Keys and .218/.262/.345 in 14 for Bowie for a composite OPS of 598.
Back in Australia, he had a great campaign in limited action in 1995-1996. He hit .353/.380/.779 but fielded just .789 in 16 games. He was playing full-time again in 1996-1997 and dazzled, batting .316/.383/.592 with 15 home runs (more than double his prior ABL high), 48 RBI, 41 runs and 21 walks in 60 games, all highs for his ABL career. He tied Paul Gonzalez for third in home runs behind Brendan Kingman and Ronny Johnson and was 4th in RBI behind Johnson, Kingman and Gonzalez. He joined Kingman and Grant McDonald in the All-Star outfield. In the championship, he hit .462 and made a key play to double Dave Nilsson off first base to be named MVP of the finals.
Byrne hit .325/.433/.475 for the Australian national team in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup. He drove in 7 runs in 9 games as their starting center fielder. He was third on the team in RBI behind Gonzalez and Jelks. In the Bronze Medal game, he hit 5th and played center field against Team USA. He was not having a good day entering the 11th inning, having gone 0 for 5 and made one error. Facing the US's Robbie Morrison with one out and the bases loaded, though, the free-swinging Byrne came through with a walk when it mattered most, forcing in the winning run in a 7-6 upset. It was Australia's first Medal ever in a major international tournament.
Clayton batted .374/.437/.626 with 47 RBI in 50 games for the Melbourne Monarchs in the 1997-1998 ABL. He set new team records for RBI, hits (68) and average (breaking the mark held by the major leagues' Randy Knorr). Byrne was named second-team All-Star at third base. He was 5th in the loop in average and hits.
In 1998-1999, Byrne returned to the Heat but slumped to .278/.329/.521 and joined Vernon Wells as a second-team All-Star outfielder. He played his first summer ball in four years when he signed with Taiwan's Taipei Suns. He hit .339/.403/.494 in 49 games. Had he qualified, he would have been 4th in the Taiwan Major League in average behind Brad Strauss, Rod Brewer and Tim Howard.
Byrne was one of the few players to appear in all 10 seasons of the Australian Baseball League in its first incarnation. He was 5th in league history in average (.318), 17th in games (363), 11th in at-bats (1,226), 6th in runs (256), 7th in hits (390), 8th in RBI (247), 4th in doubles (85, behind only Andrew Scott, Ronny Johnson and Gary White), 14th in home runs (59), 7th in total bases (660), tied with Scott Tunkin for 12th in slugging (.538), tied for 17th in OBP (.394), tied for 18th in strikeouts (217) and 18th in steals (38). Practically the only offensive category he did not make the top 20 in was walks.
Byrne ended his career in his homeland in the 1999-2000 International Baseball League of Australia. He hit .250/.250/.536 in 7 regular-season games for the Western Australia Heelers but blasted 3 home runs in four playoff games to end his Australian career on a high note.