Have you ever been the butt of a joke in front of thousands of people? There are some scenarios that you think would be so embarrassing and demoralizing that there’s just no coming back from it. This specific instance might bring about a chuckle for you, but it didn’t for Matt Clark. It was maybe the first time I’d seen in a real life scenario that was as surreal as a bad dream. The year was 2009 and we were playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm in the High-A California League for the San Diego Padres farm system.
Clark was a good player, who two years prior lead the NCAA in home runs for the LSU Tigers. He was a big, power-hitting first baseman and in this particular at bat, he did something us all have never seen before.
On the third pitch of the at-bat, Clarky got a fast ball inside, put a swing on it, and hit a lazy foul ball. The pitch broke his bat in the process. This kind of thing is a point of pride for opposing pitchers, is annoying and expensive for hitters, and happens with you mishit pitches coming at such velocity. However, this happens a couple of times during a baseball game, so, while notable, he exchanged his bat for a new on with a bat boy and after a brief delay for the riggumroll of adding new pine tar to his handle and preparing to get back in the box, the game continued.
The next pitch, however, was a breaking ball in the dirt and it got Clarky out on his front foot, fouling another ball off down the line. SPLIT! This time the bat oddly split the barrel of this expensive custom Marruci wood bat from the top. The entire dugout and rest of the stadium was holding back laughter. Clarky was embarrassed, but tried not to show it. I’ve never seen two bats break on consecutive pitches, but it happened and all eyes were on Clarky.
He repeated the process of replacing his bat with the batboy just as he had moments earlier and got back in the box. While no one said it, but we all wondered it. “It couldn’t happen again, could it?”
Fast ball in. CRACK!
Thousands of fans gasped. The dugout wasn’t even trying to hold back their amusement at this point. We all were on the top step watching this debacle unfold. This professional hitter has broken three bats on three pitches and if you wrote this into a movie script it’d be tossed out because it couldn’t possibly happen. Smoke seemed to billow out of his ears and he hunts for a fourth bat from the bat boy. The process of pine tarign the bat and he gathered his composure seemed to take longer. It was obvious that Clarky was managing the fact that he was trying to do the impossible (in hitting a baseball with two strikes from a professional pitcher) while living inside of the worst bad dream I’d ever seen on the field.
From the top step of the dugout, the entire team waited in awe to see the show. We thought, “Does this get worse?” Of course, it did. The very next pitch resulted in a broken bat pop fly in foul territory. This time it stayed in play and was caught putting him out of his misery. Being the third out, the poor guy had to take the field at first base right after with thousands of people laughing, his teammates included.
The point of the story isn’t just to rekindle humiliation, but to recognize that a single, albeit small experience, of total discomfort like that didn’t come with any consideration of quitting. Clarky hated that moment, but not more than he wanted to play in the Major Leagues, which he did by the way. Just the other day he hit a ninth inning home run that sent Team Mexico to the Olympics for the first time in history.
Look, it’s a silly story. Clarky not quitting was obvious, he couldn’t. And, no one else of that field would, either. It does highlight a strong notion from ‘Going Right: A Logical Justification for Pursuing Your Dreams’ that says when we’re pursuing the things that draw out our best we as simply more resilient than in any other place. Personally, I’m glad Clarky is getting in the box ten years later.
FUN FACT: Efren Navarro, mentioned in Clarky’s interview, played first base for Mexico in that game and was an original member with DEUCE was a park program in Santa Monica in 2011. The former Major Leaguer for the Los Angeles Angeles trains at our brother gym, DEUCE Athletics, in Hermosa Beach in the off-season.
Seated Box Jump
Then, complete 10 rounds for time:
1 Strict Muscle Up
3 Box Jumps (30/24)
15 Wall Balls (20/14)