Tony Clark a father figure to young Diamondbacks Print
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Wednesday, 03 October 2007 09:37
MLB Headline News

 PHOENIX (AP) -When Arizona gave Tony Clark a two-year contract extension in August 2005, the Diamondbacks expected him to be a consistent pinch hitter and a fill-in first baseman. He's turned out to be much more.
The 35-year-old has become a mentor on the most youthful team in the playoffs and an important contributor on the field.
``That wasn't the plan,'' Clark said. ``But I think that's what this ballclub needed.''
Clark was in the lineup at first base, and batting cleanup, for Game 1 of the NL division series against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night. Conor Jackson has been Arizona's regular first baseman. But Clark, a former New York Yankee, has more postseason experience and gives the Diamondbacks left-handed power.
The switch-hitting Clark hit .249 this season for the NL West champions, and 15 of his 17 homers and 48 of his 51 RBIs came from the left side.
The friendly, approachable Clark has become a father figure in a rookie-filled clubhouse, according to manager Bob Melvin, whose major league career ended in 1994, one year before Clark's began.
``Some of the guys feel like they can go to and talk to him maybe a little bit more on a personal basis, where (they) might be a little more guarded talking to me or one of the coaches,'' Melvin said.
Melvin said Clark will let him know if one of the younger players is struggling and may need a day off.
``A lot of times he'll come in and say, `Listen, we have something going on over here,' or `I noticed something there,' `` Melvin said. ``So he's just kind of a conduit to me, more than just a player around here. If ever there was a guy that's kind of between coach and player - even though he's very productive for us on the field, he's a stabilizing force for everybody in that clubhouse.''
The Diamondbacks' 24-year-old center fielder, Chris Young, said Clark has become one of his closest friends on the team.
``Obviously, he's a veteran guy and he's a lot more superior to us as far as baseball,'' Young said. ``But he doesn't treat us like that. He treats us just like a friend. I can talk to him about anything.''
Clark didn't envision becoming a clubhouse leader when he signed the extension, which paid $1,034,000 annually. At the time, the Diamondbacks relied on veterans such as Luis Gonzalez, Craig Counsell, Shawn Green and Troy Glaus.
``When I signed that extension, the thought was we had a veteran ballclub,'' Clark said. ``So now fast forward two years later, the whole dynamic of the clubhouse has changed.''
Signing with the Diamondbacks allowed Clark to spend the season in his home in Glendale, about 45 minutes from Chase Field. On Monday night, he attended his daughter's soccer game.
``You're never sure how many games you have left to play, let alone how many games I have left to play at home,'' Clark said. ``It's pretty special. Knowing that those things, at some point, always come to an end, I am enjoying this as much as possible.''
Clark has talked to teammates about the difference between the regular season and the playoffs.
Until Wednesday, Clark's postseason experience had been limited to five games with the Yankees in 2004. Clark hit .143 in the AL championship series against Boston, striking out nine times in 21 at-bats. The Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the pennant.
He said he advised inexperienced teammates not to get caught up in the media swirl before and after playoff games.
``You talk about perspective, going out and simply playing the game,'' Clark said. ``Once you get between the lines, it's all the same. The extracurricular, prior to, during and after is a little bit different. But once you get between the lines, the focus and the goal is the same.''
 

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