The man with 2,176 major league hits played in the World Series and the College World Series.
He won a Gold Glove, was the runner-up for the National League batting title in 1989 and had a career batting average of .303.
Will Clark flashed a bright smile as he recounted the hit that means the most to him — a two-run double by his son, Trey, a senior outfielder for The Dunham School in Baton Rouge.
It wasn’t a game winner, but it was a significant individual victory nonetheless.
“He’d come up to me and say ‘Dad I need to get an at-bat, dad I need to get an at-bat,” Clark recalled. “And I’d tell him, it’s coming.
“When he pulled up at second base he was giving himself a round of applause. It was just a joy to see his face. You couldn’t wipe the smile off his face that night or even the next day. It made his world for about a week. That’s big for me, too.”
Clark is in fourth year as a volunteer assistant coach for the Tigers. The shared passion for baseball has made the bond even deeper for the father and son. It’s a bond the New Orleans native, who starred at Jesuit and Mississippi State, wasn’t sure he would have 17 years ago.
Trey Clark was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder when he was 26 months old. The PDD diagnosis put him on the autism spectrum.
Knowing that April is Autism Awareness Month and that their son will graduate from Dunham next month gives Clark and his wife, Lisa, reasons to count their blessings and speak out about a cause that also is a passion.
“Will was playing in Texas at the time,” Lisa Clark said. “I took Trey in for a check-up thinking there were things we needed to brush up on or work extra on. I had no idea what it was. At the time, we didn’t own a computer.
“I went out and bought one the next day and did all the research I could on PDD and autism. Trey was diagnosed as high functioning at that point. But one of things they also tell you is your child may never be able to read or write. He may not be able to hold a job. That’s scary.”
Trey Clark began different forms of therapy, including occupational therapy, while in the Dallas area. When Clark was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, his son received cutting-edge treatment/therapy through Johns Hopkins, which at the time was one of the trendsetters for autism treatment.
Lisa Clark credits those therapies and continued occupational therapy as key factors in her son’s growth to a high-functioning level.
“A lot of the things that are triggers for children with autism, things like loud noises and textures of clothing and food, Trey doesn’t have problems with anymore,” she said. “Loud noises used to be a problem for him, but he has gradually gotten past that. The therapy made a difference.”
Like so many people, the Clarks were forced out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina nearly a decade ago. They settled in Ascension Parish. Trey Clark is now in his sixth year at Dunham, where he is part of the school’s McKay Academic Center. Younger sister, Ella, is a seventh-grader and also attends Dunham.
“The MAC Center is a wonderful thing,” Dunham baseball coach Joey Thibodeaux said. “It serves a lot of purposes. Students can go there for tutoring for math or science. For students with special needs, including those on the profound end of the autism scale, there’s one-on-one attention.”
Thibodeaux had no misgivings about Trey Clark joining his team as a freshman. He’s a reserve outfielder who Thibodeaux said has played in about a fourth of Tigers’ games this season. Because he is high-functioning, Thibodeaux does not have to inform umpires when the younger Clark enters the game.
“He loves the sport and works at it every day,” Will Clark said. “After being around his dad and pro guys, he knows there’s more to it than just playing the game or practicing.
“He knows you have to pick up the ball, bats and equipment. He stays around to make sure that is taken care, and he reminds his teammates. It’s pretty heartwarming for me as his dad to see that.”
Trey Clark was one of two honorary captain’s award winners last season for Thibodeaux.
“He gets so much joy from baseball and really has a passion for it,” Thibodeaux said. “That’s something you don’t see every day and it’s fun for me to see that. You can tell it’s pure and genuine. It’s good for our other kids and they’re good for Trey. They make sure he’s included in things.”
Trey Clark loves to read. His passion for baseball has led him to study the history of the game. He can rattle off statistics, including those of his father’s, upon request. He also keeps statistics while watching games at home with his father, who still works for the San Francisco Giants organization.
The Clarks aren’t sure what will come next for their son. Junior college classes in the area are one option. For now, the focus is on the Tigers, who are scheduled to play Redemptorist in a key District 6-2A game Thursday night, weather permitting.
Next comes graduation and the family’s trip to San Francisco for the Giants’ annual Autism Night at the Ballpark, which involves the national group Autism Speaks. It’s one of several groups the Clark family has worked with through the years.
One of Trey Clark’s fondest baseball memories was being doused with champagne after his father and his St. Louis Cardinals’ teammates beat the Atlanta Braves in a 2000 playoff series. That two-RBI double ranks up there too.
“Oh man, it was exciting,” Trey Clark said. “It was a fastball. After the game I said, ‘I finally got that out of the way.’ ”