Iowa Cubs pitcher Trevor Clifton finds peace, quiet and affordability in his tiny house
Trevor Clifton pulls out his key, gets on the back of a trailer and walks across the metal platform to a door.
That door marks the start of about 104 square feet of wooden housing. The habitat is barely big enough for a bed and a couch and doesn’t have any plumbing or even a shower. But none of that bothers Clifton.
This is home for the Iowa Cubs pitcher.
It’s an unusual route for any professional athlete. Most minor league players in Triple-A live in apartments or out of hotels. But not Clifton, a right-handed starting pitcher for Iowa.
Instead, Clifton, named the Chicago Cubs’ top minor league pitcher in 2016, has decided to go another route. During the off-season, he and his dad Dennis built the tiny home.
“We built it from the ground up,” Clifton said. “We always saw the tiny homes on Pinterest and all that (and thought) ‘dang, that would be cool to build.’ We had a chance to do it from the ground up. So, we went ahead and did.”
Clifton transported the shack to Des Moines, where he’s playing and waiting for his first call to the big leagues.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Jaron Madison, Chicago’s director of player development. “He’s always had a different personality and likes to do things differently. It makes sense.”
‘Let’s build something’
Clifton, 23, was a 12th round pick by the Cubs in 2013. He made his Triple-A debut with Iowa last season and figured he’d begin the 2019 season again in Des Moines.
Clifton lived with teammates Jen-Ho Tseng and Duane Underwood Jr. last season when he was promoted, but said he wanted to live on his own this season. There was just one problem: Clifton was already shelling out money to rent a house in Tennessee that he lived in during the offseason and the cheapest apartment he could find in downtown Des Moines was for $1,200 a month.
“It was just like, I can’t do that,” Clifton said. “Let’s build something.”
He bought a camper online for around $200. His plan was to renovate the inside and turn it into a little home for the season. But the plan hit a snag in the road. Clifton, who had started gutting the rotten wood from the inside of it, was hauling it over to his parents’ house when the camper actually collapsed.
Clifton and his dad took what remained of the camper and gutted it until it was just a trailer. Then Clifton, with the help of a friend, put plywood down on the floor. From there, Clifton and his father went to work on the frame.
They didn’t have any architectural drawings — just a basic plan.
They made the living space about 13 feet high and created a five-foot back porch where the door is located. The father and son also installed a metal roof. Dennis framed some windows into the wall from the original camper.
For about two months, Clifton bounced between his parents’ house and his home transporting the tiny house.
“Sometimes it would be going down the road with a couple of walls up,” his mom Betsey Clifton said. “It was kind of comical, really, because it would go back and forth and he probably lives four or five miles into town. We live more out of town.”
Clifton and his dad worked on and off on the project as time allowed. Dennis put the finishing touches on it while Trevor was in Arizona for spring training. He built in the couch, fridge, microwave and storage system. Dennis also installed a mattress.
The house even has a little area with a skillet where Clifton can cook on. He even has a heat and an air conditioning system.
“I just wish it had a bathroom in it — that’s the only thing,” Betsey said. “Other than that, it’s pretty nice. He’s got an upscale mattress.”
‘I just like to be on my own’
The plan was always to bring the house to Iowa. But Clifton, who started the season in extended spring training, was added to Iowa’s roster when the team was in Nashville. That forced Clifton to fly flew to Nashville and meet his parents. It took three and a half hours to make it there thanks to a flat tire on the trailer along the way.
When Iowa wrapped up its season-opening series in Nashville, Clifton got special permission from Iowa manager Marty Pevey to drive the tiny house back to Iowa. When Clifton got to town, he parked it outside of Principal Park. That’s where it stood, right outside the outfield fence, for Iowa’s opening series.
Clifton couldn’t find a spot at the stadium to keep it, so he moved the trailer to a house where a teammate was staying. He hopes to eventually find a campground where he can park the house long term.
But no matter where it is, it provides the cheap housing he was looking for, along with some peace and quiet.
“I just like to be on my own, just relax whenever I get home,” Clifton said. “That’s one way to do it. You’re by yourself. You get to do what you want. If you want to go fishing out by the lake, you can go do that.”
It’s even got a cozy feel to it. Clifton has a porch and a “welcome” sign hangs above the door. He has a mat sitting at the entrance. Before the season began, Dennis stocked his fridge with food and water. Clifton can use his gaming system thanks to the WiFi hotspot on his phone.
When the tiny house was park at Principal Park, Clifton showered and used the restroom in the clubhouse just a short walk away.
“He’s got everything right there,” Dennis said. “And he’s probably got the most comfortable bed he’s ever had to live in along the way.”
Every little bit helps for Clifton, who is competing in an important season. It’s his seventh year of pro ball and he can become a free agent after the season, so if he’s going to make it to Chicago, this may be a make or break year for him.
Madison said the key for Clifton is staying healthy.
“We’re waiting for him to take that next step,” Madison said. “I think he’s had some up and down seasons, but overall, he’s going in the right direction now. It’s just about time to show that he’s ready to contribute on a Major League club and the first part of that is just staying healthy now. He has the ingredients to be a big-league pitcher. It’s just consistency and just continuing to develop.”
While he tries to take that next step, Clifton is living life comfortable in his new digs. There’s still some trim that needs to be installed. Clifton plans to work on that during his off days. And in the offseason, he hopes the house can be something he and his fiance use for camping.
“It turned out pretty good,” Clifton said with a smile.
This content was originally published here.