Clinton started his high school baseball career in 1970 at Shepherdstown High School. He started at first base as a freshman and helped win the school's only state championship in 1970. Clinton also played basketball and football at Shepherdstown. In 1973, the county schools consolidated and Clinton earned the starting catcher position on the first ever Jefferson County High School baseball team and had the school's first base hit. He helped to lead Jefferson to the state semifinals and was named to the State All-Tourney team. He also played football at Jefferson in 1973. Clinton was named Jefferson County Jaycee Athlete of the Year in 1973.

He played two years of baseball at Potomac State College as the starting third baseman and part-time shortstop before transferring to WVU. His second year at Potomac State he earned the Unsung Hero Award for the baseball team.

Clinton came to WVU on an Army ROTC Scholarship in the 1975-76 school year. Two weeks before school started, he received a letter from Coach Dale Ramsburg offering him an opportunity to play baseball at WVU as an invited walk-on. Clinton accepted the offer and earned the starting center field position even though he had been a utility infielder his entire career prior to coming to WVU. In 1976, he hit .300 with 20 RBIs and 2 HRs to help lead WVU to a 21-12 record and a post-season birth for the first time in years. The team lost two out of three in the ECAC Tourney in Newark, Delaware. Clinton sustained a career-ending leg injury during the summer of 1976 while fulfilling his ROTC requirements at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He continued his education at WVU and earned his B.S. and Master's degrees.