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Baseball player Jared Clark had a ton of potential coming out of Valencia High. Did he realize it?

Posted: May 25, 2009 6:53 p.m.
Updated: May 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cal State Fullerton senior Jared Clark, left, is congratulated by his teammates during a 2009 game.

 

There was almost a bitterness in his voice.

Just drafted by the Houston Astros in the 19th round of the June 2004 Major League Baseball Draft, Jared Clark was clearly unflattered.

He thought, despite a scholarship to play for one of the nation's perennial baseball powerhouses in Cal State Fullerton, he should have gone higher in the draft.

He believed what others were saying about him, touting him as a star in the making.

He believed the radar guns, all of them, that usually surrounded the backstop at Valencia High's baseball field.

The others, the radar guns, they all let Clark know he had a ton of potential.

Clark believed he had that potential.

Even if it made him come off as aloof or arrogant.

Five years later, it's easy to see why he believed.

Clark, the power-hitting, hard-throwing Valencia baseball player is five years later just the power-hitting Cal State Fullerton senior.

He is batting .340 with 11 home runs and a team-leading 70 RBIs in 56 games.

Cal State Fullerton head coach Dave Serrano remembers riding the bus to UCLA a couple of weekends ago and Clark pulling out an old highlight reel of his days playing for Valencia.

"Here was a young man, five years ago, baby-faced, pitching, hitting, playing right field. It relived thoughts of 2004," Serrano says. "Here was a young, strapping athlete who had a good chance to be a special baseball player."

In 2004, Clark was the All-Santa Clarita Valley and Foothill League player of the year.

He hit .421 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs and was 8-1 with a 1.05 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings.

His fastball consistently hummed in the low-90s.

So when he arrived at Fullerton, he was a dual-threat.

By 2006, he was off the mound.

Serrano, who formerly coached at UC Irvine, says his former team might have had something to do with driving Clark of the mound.
"He was making one of his first starts and we roughed him up pretty good," Serrano says.

Clark pitched some bullpen sessions for Fullerton last year, but never appeared in a game.

He says his coaches didn't necessarily decide to end his pitching career.

"It was kind of like it dwindled away as I was playing," Clark, now the Titans' first baseman, says.

Clark still displayed a powerful stroke at the plate.

On March 5, 2006, he blasted two home runs against Rice and was subsequently named Big West Player of the Week.

He also hit a three-run home run against eventual National Player of the Year Andrew Miller at the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

But in 2007, he tore his ACL and missed the entire season.

Despite the injury, he was drafted in the 21st round by the Cleveland Indians.

Clark again didn't sign.

He then had a breakout season in 2008, tying for the team lead in home runs with nine. He also drove in 53 runs.

He was again drafted, this time in the 45th round by the Los Angeles Angels. He turned them down, too.

"I didn't get what I wanted , so I got a better opportunity to play for Team USA," Clark says.

In the summer of 2008, after another player suffered an injury, Clark was selected to play for Team USA in the FISU World Baseball Championship.

Team USA, playing in various parts of Europe, won a gold medal and Clark hit four home runs and led the squad in slugging percentage.

But with all the accomplishments, Serrano points to Clark's maturation.

He agreed that early on Clark may have come off arrogant and aloof.

Serrano says there has been a change and it has a lot to do with staying in school.

Yet talking to Clark, he's still strong-minded and difficult to crack.

His answers are straight-forward, almost close to the vest.

"I think there's a caring person inside, a good young man who has matured," Serrano says. "He realized what's important. If you ask him the same question this year that you did five years ago (his answer) would be different.

"More of that aloof and arrogance was back then. There's an inner-confidence. It really bothers him when he's in a position to succeed and he doesn't get it done."

Clark says of his approach: "Obviously there's moments of good and bad. I try to keep it as even as I have to. Baseball's a game where you show no emotion."

Clark will likely get drafted a fourth time in June.

Because he doesn't have the option to return to school, his draft position and the money could drop.

His concern, though, is the College World Series.

Fullerton received the No. 2 national seed for the NCAA baseball championship tournament and will host its own regional beginning with a Friday matchup against Utah.

In five years, Clark has had a long baseball life.

As for potential, did he meet it?

"Yes, definitely," Clark says. "I'm very fortunate to have done the things I've already done."

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