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February 8, 2012

Former Lancaster High baseball star Danny Clyburn Jr. killed

Danny Clyburn Jr. loved baseball. The former Lancaster High star enjoyed a brief career in the major leagues before working with children at a baseball camp. But his days on the baseball diamond ended Tuesday when he was shot to death in Lancaster.

Danny Clyburn Jr. always knew he wanted to play baseball, from the time he was a child.

Growing up in Lancaster, his interest in the sport was sparked when he started playing T-ball and watching the Chicago Cubs. He continued playing baseball while he attended Lancaster High School, where he was selected as All-Region in 1992.

That same year, his dream came true - he was drafted second overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 41 games over three years in the major leagues, Clyburn played outfielder for multiple teams, including the Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with whom he played his last game in 1999.

But the dream to return to the sport he loved so much had never quite left him.

Danny Clyburn Sr. said Tuesday that his son had been working with youth at a baseball camp in California and was hoping to play baseball once again.

Early Tuesday morning, though, Danny Clyburn Jr. was shot at a home on North Market Street in Lancaster. He was 37.

Police and EMS responding to reports of a shooting at about 2 a.m. found Clyburn lying dead in the front yard.

Witnesses told police a man had been arguing with Clyburn moments before he was shot. Derrick Lamont McIlwain, 36, of Lancaster, is in jail charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

"It's on and off," Danny Clyburn Sr. told The Herald about his grief. "When you're thinking about it, not thinking about it..."

Back in 1992, Clyburn called his father after he found out he'd been drafted by the Pirates.

"I was very elated and happy for him," his father said. "He did what he talked about doing and what he had faith in."

After two seasons at the minor-league level in the Pirates organization, Clyburn was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, where he spent one season in the minors, before moving on to the Rochester Red Wings in the Minnesota Twins organization.

From there, Clyburn made it to "The Show" - the major leagues, where he played two seasons with the Orioles in 1997-98 and one with the Devil Rays in 1999.

"He liked it all," Danny Clyburn Sr. said, "but he would have liked to have stayed with the Baltimore Orioles."

He played his last major league game in 1999, leaving for personal reasons.

His family remembers Clyburn Jr.'s love of the game.

Aunt Martha Anthony called him a "great guy."

"He loved sports," she said. "He and my son both went to the pros. He's got two beautiful children. ...I love him."

Clyburn leaves two children - a son, Gavin, 17; and a daughter, Logan, 11. Clyburn Sr. said Gavin is hoping to follow in his father's footsteps.

Uncle Hazel Barnes spent a lot of time with his nephew.

"I had the opportunity to watch him grow up as a kid," Barnes said. "I coached him when he was 13 or 14. Sometimes he would be late to practice."

Barnes taught Clyburn the importance of not being late to practice.

"Later on," Barnes said, "when he was in pro baseball and talking to me, he shared with me...that it was probably the best lesson he learned."

Clyburn Jr. was particularly fond of all of his cousins, Barnes said. Two of them - Mark Anthony and John Barnes - also were drafted out of high school.

But Clyburn was the only one to make it to a major-league team, Barnes said.

When Clyburn returned to Lancaster after finishing up in the major leagues, he worked odd jobs for some time before he felt the desire to return to baseball.

From 2002 to 2005, he played with the minor-league Newark Bears in New Jersey.

Melissa Montgomery said her cousin was a good person with a good heart.

"I don't see why anyone would want to hurt him," she said. "He will be missed."

Clyburn's family said he and McIlwain knew each other, but they couldn't say how close they were.

By late Tuesday, no bond had been set for McIlwain, jail officials said.

McIlwain's criminal record dates back to 1992, according to the State Law Enforcement Division, with arrests for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, multiple drug charges and several driving under the influence charges.

His most recent charge was for drug possession in August 2011, for which he served a year of probation.

Clyburn Sr. said he hopes people will remember his son as a "good man."

"He was a good son," he said. "He tried hard to stay on top, always tried. He worked hard in baseball."

This is the fourth homicide of 2012 in York, Chester and Lancaster counties, the second in Lancaster.

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