Thursday, February 25, 2010
#653) TONY CLARK
Tony Clark became a New York Met when he left the Boston Red Sox and signed with them as a free agent on February 20, 2003. He agreed to a minor league contract and was given an invitation to major league camp for spring training. The 6-foot-7, former college basketball star, was excited for the possibility of joining the Mets, but had a deep concern. Currently the Mets' had veteran Mo Vaughn at that position and Tony would not come aboard without the slugger's blessing. The two men were friends and Clark did not want the perception that he was attempting to unseat Vaughn. "He's a good dude," Mo said, "and he has to do whatever he can do to make the team." Tony explained it, "This is a situation where, being a Christian, I prayed about my future quite a bit. I simply prayed that things would fall into place and as quickly as things came together, I figured this would be the place to be. I saw the guys that I was familiar with here and that I'm comfortable with, and this club has the opportunity to be successful in October."
When the team broke camp and headed north, Tony would find himself left behind in Florida. He worked out with the Single-A team in St. Lucie until a roster spot could be opened. Mike Piazza was serving a four-game suspension, and the Mets added Jason Phillips to temporarily provide a second catcher in New York. On April 6, 2003, he would be activated and make his Mets' debut. Clark was the starting first baseman and hit a tape measure two-run home run off Montreal Expos' pitcher, T.J. Tucker. "I am not trying to get caught up in being a superhero at the end of the day." Clark would humbly say, "I'm just trying to do my job. Sometimes it works out well, sometimes it doesn't. Once you start patting yourself on the back, that's when something (bad) usually finds you." In his first game the switch-hitter wore uniform number "00". The "double-zero" had been assigned to him earlier during spring training. Significant because it was the first time a player had worn the uniform number made famous by team mascot, "Mr. Met" during the regular season. Clark switched to number "52" after schoolchildren in Queens, New York asked him what had happened to the beloved Mr. Met. The change made him the first player to wear number "52".
Tony fit well into a less accustomed role of a part-time player and pinch-hitter. He delivered many significant hits coming off the bench. Several of which were game-winners. After slugging such a home run on July 7th to defeat the Reds in Cincinnati teammate Ty Wigginton said, "Everytime you see Tony come up late in a ballgame, you feel like he is going to come through with the big knock." A knee injury to Mo Vaughn provided an opportunity for the Mets to place Clark as the starting first baseman more than originally planned. He would get 50 starts at first base in 2003, and finished strong. Hitting five home runs and collecting 14 RBIs while posting a .313 batting average in his final 19 starts of the year.
Clark left the Mets when he was granted free agency and signed with the cross-town Yankees on January 12, 2004. Upon retiring from active baseball he joined ESPN network as a studio analyst in August 2009 .
Tony Clark signed his card in the set for me when the San Diego Padres faced the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on May 15, 2008.
"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13)