After 12 seasons with the team, most recently in the head coach role, Jim Clem will step down from the Bellingham Bells for the 2024 season. Clem is leaving the Bells to spend more time with family.
“I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed my years with the Bells! It’s been such a rewarding experience,” Clem said. “I will definitely miss it, not sure if it will be for the long term, but I feel it’s time to take a step back next summer, so I can have more time to spend with family and friends. That said, the Bells will remain close to my heart.”
“Coach Clem is a Bells legend,” Bells general manager Stephanie Morrell said. “He embodies everything we believe in. He understands the game is about winning and losing, but also about how you win and lose. He’s been very successful here in Bellingham and is loved by just about everyone who has interacted with him. We are extremely appreciative to him for all he’s done for our program and wish him the best.”
Clem joined the Bells in 2011 as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator on Coach Gary Hatch’s staff. Throughout the years, Coach Clem was a constant force for the Bells, remaining in place as pitching coach for eleven seasons and working with six head coaches during that time. Clem’s pitching staffs were consistently among the league’s best, with numerous pitchers over the years being named to all-league teams and two (Seth Martinez – 2014, Eric Chavarria – 2021) being named WCL Pitcher of the Year. In September 2022, Clem was named the Bells head coach and led the 2023 Bells to a 37-19 record and an appearance in the West Coast League North Division title game.
Two pitchers whom Clem worked with for multiple seasons, Michael Rucker (Chicago Cubs) and Seth Martinez (Houston Astros), are now part of Major League Baseball pitching staffs. Clem also worked closely with two-year Bell Spencer Howard (Triple-A New York Mets), the first Bells player of his time to make a MLB pitching staff. Howard pitched with the Phillies and Rangers for four MLB seasons (2020 – 2023).
Clem also served as the primary architect for the team’s rosters, working closely with the Bells head coach and front office/ownership to assemble players each season. He engineered one championship team, and many others that contended for titles, with seven post-season appearances in 12 years.
Beyond his work with the Bells, Clem has long been known as a legendary coach throughout the area and has had success at various levels of the game. He has been named to multiple hall-of-fames, including the WIAA Coaches Hall of Fame, the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and the Central Washington University Hall of Fame.
“The Bells believe deeply in development,” Morrell said. “It’s extremely important to us that players who spend time in Bellingham receive teaching and coaching, and that their development as a person and player is first and foremost. No one was more committed to that mission, or impacted more young athletes, than Jim Clem. He truly cared about every player he coached, and always wanted to send them back to their colleges better than they were when they arrived. He has stayed in touch with so many players, and many credit him as a mentor and an integral part of their baseball career. His coaching legacy will be long remembered by many.”
“It’s hard to explain to others just what makes the Bells such a great organization, but in a nutshell there’s no doubt, it’s the people,” Clem said. “It starts at the top, and extends through the ranks, all the way to the fans. Thanks go to Glenn Kirkpatrick and Stephanie Morrell for all that they do, and for having a clear vision of what they want the Bells to be, and for including the coaching staff to be a part of carrying out their vision. The support from everyone involved with the Bells has been amazing! This past summer was icing on the cake, it was such a terrific summer, with an amazing group of people to spend it with! I’m still smiling thinking about it! Thanks again! Go Bells!”