Trent Clark has big things to do, like right here in the fifth inning of this tie game.
He’s up first, and he’s waiting, standing in low-cut stirrups and New Balance cleats. He’s watching the pitcher. Timing him. The catcher throws to second, and Clark walks toward the batter’s box.
But first, an announcement: “Attention,” a PA man bellows from behind the backstop, “would the owner of a dark gray Honda Civic please move your car? It’s blocking someone who needs to leave.”
Clark is one of the top baseball prospects in the country. He’s also still in high school, at Richland, where he’s been one of the best players in Texas the past two seasons.
Through 19 games this year, the center fielder has hit .523 with two home runs, five doubles, three triples and 12 RBIs. As a an all-state junior, he hit .441 with 10 home runs.
But it was his performance with the 18-under Team USA last summer that shot his name up draft boards.
In 12 games against international competition, Clark hit .538, slugged .923, drove in 24 runs and stole 10 bases on 10 attempts. His run at the Pan American Championship followed a showing at the Perfect Game All-American Game in San Diego in August. He also went 6 for 14 in four games in the Team USA Tournament of Stars last June.
Suddenly, Clark went from local star to national prospect. In October, ESPN ranked Clark as the 19th overall draft prospect. MLB.com has Clark ranked 14th overall.
“I was always a good guy around here, and most people knew me,” Clark said. “I just kept doing my thing, and people came.”
The MLB Draft is June 8-10, and the bulk of a prospect’s first contract comes from the signing bonus, a figure that’s mostly predetermined by draft slot.
MLB hasn’t released the slot numbers for this year, but in 2014, not one first-round pick signed for less than $1.5 million. The value for the No. 1 slot was $7.9 million, though the Astros didn’t sign their selection, Brady Aiken.
Every other first-rounder cashed in, including TCU pitcher Brandon Finnegan, who signed with the Royals for $2.2 million after going 16th overall.
If the projections hold, Clark should be picked somewhere in that range, likely with a similar bonus offering. Then he’ll have a decision to make: Go pro or go to Texas Tech, where he signed in November. Opting for college isn’t common for first-round picks. In the past four drafts, only four out of 130 first-rounders didn’t sign, according to Baseball America.
If Clark went to Tech, he wouldn’t be draft-eligible again until 2018, after his junior year. The slot value from the first round to the fifth round drops from around $1.5 million to around $400,000, according to last year’s numbers.
Clark, who meets with MLB team representatives weekly, knows his stock now is high.
“Everything I know now is looking great,” he said.
Plus, getting drafted would be a dream realized.
As a 4-year-old, Clark would dart across the T-ball field, fielding one hit in left field and the next near second base, according to his mother, Michelle Grisham.
Now, he still stands out as a lefty with an interlocking golf grip. Clark holds a bat like Phil Mickelson and swings it like Vladimir Guerrero, lumbering at any pitch that floats near the strike zone. He’s needed a free approach. In 72 plate appearances, he’s been walked 25 times, including 10 intentional walks during district play.
Against Southlake Carroll on March 31, when the Honda needed to move, Clark saw eight pitches and went 3-for-4. In the final inning, with Richland trailing 2-1, Clark saw a pitch high and outside, and he smacked a single to right field. It was the rally starter Richland needed. Clark was later forced out at home, but the Rebels won 3-2.
After the celebration, Clark grabbed a rake and tended the field with his teammates. Then he contemplated his situation: In a few months, he could be a millionaire, and the decision will be his.
“I’ve dreamed about being a professional baseball player forever, for my whole life,” he said. “So that weighs into it.”
Ryan Osborne, 817-390-7760
Area MLB draft prospects
Trent Clark, OF, Richland: One of the top high school players in the country, Clark wowed scouts last summer while playing for the 18-under national team. He’s signed with Texas Tech, but will likely be a first-round selection.
Beau Burrows, P, Weatherford: A hard-throwing right-hander, Burrows could also be a first-round selection, according to MLB.com and others. Burrows signed with Texas A&M.
Lucas Wakamatsu, INF, Keller: A talented shortstop, Wakamatsu was named to the Perfect Game second-team preseason all-American team. He signed with Rice, and he’s the son of former Mariners manager and Rangers assistant Don Wakamatsu, now the bench coach with the Royals.
Tony Santillan, P, Arlington Seguin: Another Texas Tech signee, Santillan can reach the mid-90s with his fastball. Like Clark and Burrows, Santillan also was named to Perfect Game’s preseason first-team All-American list.
Eric Cole, INF, Southlake Carroll: Cole, an Arkansas signee, has been a productive bat for Carroll the past two seasons. He also drew the attention of scouts during a game last month against Richland.
Doak Dozier, OF, Fort Worth Arlington Heights: Dozier, a Virginia signee, is another Perfect Game first-team All-American.