Baseball pays the bills, but hoops still a passion for Clark Print
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Tuesday, 19 February 2008 13:45
MLB Headline News

 PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) -Tony Clark still has a basketball jones.
Nearly two decades after his San Diego-area high school team lost in the state championship game, Clark gets another shot at a title.
This time it's as an assistant coach at Phoenix's Northwest Christian, which will play Thatcher in the Arizona Class 2A state championship game on Saturday just down the freeway from the San Diego Padres' spring training complex.
Clark, the big first baseman who signed with his hometown Padres last week, will have a busy day Saturday. He plans to get to the clubhouse at about 6:15 a.m. and get in a workout so he can make it in plenty of time to the basketball game, which tips off at noon.
``I'm excited, but I'm excited more for the kids,'' Clark said on Tuesday. ``These are opportunities as high school kids that you will hold onto the rest of your lives, especially if we're able to seal the deal and win on Saturday.''
Northwest Christian, which won a semifinal game Monday afternoon, is 27-5.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound Clark was a basketball and baseball star in high school in El Cajon, an eastern suburb of San Diego. He averaged 43.7 points per game as a senior in 1990, leading Christian High to the state Division V title game.
``We lost by 13. Like I said, you don't forget that stuff.''
The 35-year-old Clark has spent his last seven offseasons as a coach at Northwest Christian. His wife is in her third season as the school's varsity girls head coach.
``Basketball, that was my love,'' Clark said, somewhat wistfully. ``I always enjoyed baseball, don't get me wrong. But the passion I had for basketball was a little different. So having the opportunity to be involved and offer the things I've experienced, it's an absolute blast for me.
``Not to mention that because my wife is the varsity girls coach and I'm the boys coach, our whole family is in the gym for five or six hours a day, six days a week,'' said Clark, who has two daughters, ages 10 and 13, and a 5-year-old son.
Clark scored 2,549 points in his prep career, a San Diego section record that stood for 14 years.
He wanted to play in the NBA but injuries cut short his college career. Taken by the Detroit Tigers out of high school with the second pick overall in the June 1990 draft, he tried playing hoops while working his way through the minor leagues, first at Arizona and then at San Diego State.
``No sooner did I step foot off the high school campus when yeah, my body fell apart,'' he said. ``My years playing hoops in college were difficult. I injured my back the first week in practice at Arizona, and then when I had back surgery at the end of my freshman year, I was never the same.''
A change in teams this offseason provided fortuitous for Clark, whose three-year run with the Arizona Diamondbacks ended in December. Since the Diamondbacks train in Tucson, participating in his high school team's postseason run would have been difficult, if not impossible.
``Put it this way: If I was with Arizona, I wouldn't have the opportunity to be up here,'' Clark said. ``I'd have to stay down there and miss all the practices, then have to ask for a special exemption to stay up here the night before so I can get to the games. So being here is ideal.''
So is being with the Padres. A switch-hitter, he'll back up Adrian Gonzalez and provide pop off the bench.
``I enjoy it,'' he said. ``I'm suiting up with future Hall of Famers and I'm in my old home town. Spring training, I'm staying at my own house and I get to hang out all year with friends and family, and I've got a chance to win the whole thing. Brother, I'm blessed well beyond what I deserve.''

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