Bill Clark made the Mid-Missouri Mavericks an offer they couldn’t pass up.
After all, it’s not every day the last-place team in the Western Division of the Frontier League gets a call inquiring about a job from the major league scout who discovered Andruw Jones and Rafael Furcal and almost put Albert Pujols in an Atlanta Braves uniform.
That’s the position the Mavericks were in, though, when Clark, then an international scouting director for the San Diego Padres, called them looking for a job.
The Mavericks couldn’t say no. They hired Clark, 71, on Dec. 4 as the team’s Director of Player Procurement.
“Bill was here in Columbia and he knew the Padres weren’t going to renew his contract, and he was looking for a job,” Jeff Johnson, the Mavericks’ media relations director, said. “To have a guy of that quality with that good a track record is going to make a great impact with us.”
Clark has started producing results for the Mavericks, who finished 33-57 in 2003.
He has signed seven players for the Mavericks,including center fielder Ramon Fernandez, formerly the third-fastest player in the Padres’ organization Clark said, and Canadian left fielder Andy Rempel, who in 2003 tied for the Big Ten Conference lead in stolen bases while at Purdue.
Clark has also signed former minor league pitchers John-Paul Glascock and DaJuan Kennedy.
Most recently, Clark has made two trades and signed Pat Maloney, a former Kansas State outfielder who batted .398 in 2003 and was a two-time All-Big 12 selection.
“He has connections with college coaches and affiliated teams,” Johnson said. “Maybe guys in the past that we couldn’t get our hands on, we’ll be able to get our hands on this year.”
Clark must work within certain parameters, though. Frontier League players must be younger than 27 on opening day and teams can have a maximum of three veterans, two third-year players, seven second-year players and at least 10 rookies.
The Mavericks will have a 22-man roster with the league maximum being 24.
Clark said he relishes the challenge and the opportunity.
“These have been some of the most enjoyable months that I’ve ever spent in baseball … if a guy doesn’t want to come here to play for $600-$700 a month,you tell him to go take a hike,” Clark said. “That’s the glory of the whole thing, you’re dealing with guys who want another chance or a first chance.”
Clark has spent the past four years as an international scouting director for the Padres and before that he was the international scouting director for the Atlanta Braves.
For the 21 years before Clark joined the Braves in 1989, he scoured the Midwest looking for talent for first the Pittsburgh Pirates and later the Seattle Pilots, who became the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Cincinnati Reds.
During his time as a scout, he also was the sports editor for the Columbia Tribune in the mid-1970s.
Clark is trying to gather support for a major league scouts union. Scouts first tried to organize a union in 1970.
“It cost a lot of guys their jobs,” Clark said. “Owners consider scouts to be nothing more than the janitors.”
Clark got his start in professional baseball in 1949 when he umpired a game between a semi-pro team from his hometown of Clinton and the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. He was 16. That year he graduated high school and in 1950 he enrolled in umpire school.
In 1951, Clark went into the Army and earned an honorable discharge in 1954. A year later, he married Dolores Denny. He used the GI Bill to go to MU and studied journalism.
Dr. William H. Taft, a former MU professor, remembers Clark from his feature writing class.
“A lot of us were disappointed he didn’t continue on with journalism,” Taft said. “As a human interest writer, he could really get to the heart of an issue.”
In 1956, Clark took a semester off from school to umpire in the Central Mexican League. After graduating from MU, he called local games while climbing from being a Pirates’ bird-dog to their area scouting supervisor in 1968.
“You were the only connection people in Hallsville or Ashland had to the major leagues,” Clark said. “You became an ambassador for Major League Baseball.”