Patience is not a virtue that always applies to Caleb Clark, at least in recent memory.
It’s placed him in an ideal position to break records.
The athlete of many talents (outfielder/pitcher/leadoff hitter) fights off pitches, whether they’re in or out of the strike zone. He’s a free-swinger, as North Hall baseball coach Trevor Flow tends to call it.
Clark, who completed his high school baseball career one week ago, conducted a spectacular senior season matched by only one other Georgian on record. He tied Kaleb Cowart — currently a third baseman in the Anaheim Angels organization — with 70 hits: the most in a season in Georgia high school history, according to the Georgia Dugout Preview Magazine.
“Tying a state record in anything (is incredible), especially with the names that are in that state record and knowing that he did that probably without a whole lot of discipline,” Flow said.
The company is definitely comforting. Current Pittsburgh Pirate Adam Frazier lands third on the list with 66 hits, while former major league center fielder Corey Patterson is tied for fourth with 65.
In addition to the state record, Clark now claims several North Hall records, including the most single season doubles (18), highest season batting average including playoffs (.496), and (the coveted) most hits in a season (70).
Clark learned of his remarkable state achievement last Friday on his way to dinner. Clark asked his cousin Dylan to pick him up after realizing his gas tank was empty. The setting was calm until Clark began surfing the web — out of boredom — for Georgia’s high school baseball statistics.
He knew he had a pretty good season, but 70 hits in 37 games? He was shocked.
“I said, ‘Dylan, you’re not going to believe this,’ then I called my dad and told him,” Clark said. “I was just kind of surprised really because all of those guy are pro guys, Auburn and Georgia commits.”
“After that, I thought, ‘Dang, just one more hit.’”
For more perspective, Jackson Dyer played the same number of games and owned the second-most hits on the team with 39.
The Trojans began the 2019 season 0-6-1. They then embarked on a 8-1 stretch, with a series win over Cherokee Bluff, the third region series of the year. The season changed for North Hall at that point, but not entirely for the better.
Immediately after, Clark, the ace of the rotation, tore a muscle in his left shoulder (throwing arm). Rest was the remedy, but Clark shrugged it off.
He visited the doctor over a month later during the first round of the state playoffs. They told him to stop pitching, but he had already sidelined himself as the pain became too fierce.
Without the mound as a priority, Clark focused solely on the bat and base paths.
“When I’m pitching, it’s hard (to separate it from my hitting),” Clark said. “If I do bad at the plate, then it carries over onto the mound and vice versa, but once I stopped pitching I think mentally, I was all about hitting because I couldn’t do anything else.”
Clark wasn’t always atop the Trojans lineup. Flow used to anchor him at the three-hole where the best hitter usually resides. Halfway through last season, coach moved him to leadoff, and his bat never ceased to excel.
“I would always look forward to the lineup turning over because I knew he had the capability of making something happen,” Flow said. “He was going to compete. I’ll miss that probably the most knowing that when he was at the plate, we had a chance.”
If Flow hadn’t moved Clark to leadoff — where he had 141 at-bats and 37 RBIs this season — tying the state’s single season record in hits might not have happened.
“They basically have to pitch to you the first at-bat of the game,” Clark said. “They’re not going to walk you. That’s what I think helped out a lot because I got a lot of leadoff hits to start games.”
Earlier this month, Clark signed with Snead State in Boaz, AL, where he will hit leadoff and play in the outfield. He said every now and then he’ll pitch some innings.
The plan is to climb the ladder to a Division I program with his lifelong baseball partner following closely behind.
“My dad’s already talked about buying a camper,” Clark said. “He already told me he’s going to stay up there most of the time, keep an eye on me. He says he’s going to find an RV park or something on Lake Guntersville. I definitely think he’ll be there a lot.”