Doug Clark knows the San Francisco Giants organization as well as anyone. The Massachusetts native appeared in 953 games for various affiliates within the Giants organization over the course of nine seasons. After beginning his career with a season in low-A and another in high-A, Clark yo-yoed between AA and AAA for the next five years.
In 2005, the Giants finally gave Clark an opportunity to play an entire season at AAA, and he responded with his best season as a professional. Clark hit .316 with 13 homers and 29 steals for the Fresno Grizzlies. That performance earned Clark the ultimate promotion in September, a trip to the major leagues. He would appear in eight games for the Giants, scoring two runs and walking once.
During the off-season, Clark was made a minor league free agent and he inked a deal with the Oakland A’s organization, his first professional contract outside of the Giants organization. After a strong season in the Mexican Winter Leagues where he was among the leaders in virtually every offensive category, Clark spent most of spring training in big league camp with the A’s. He had 18 at-bats in 17 games and he was a member of the A’s roster during the Bay Bridge Series and the A’s-River Cats exhibition game.
Clark was assigned to AAA-Sacramento at the end of camp, and he has been one of the River Cats’ top offensive performers so far this season. Through May 27, Clark was hitting .312 with four homers and a team-leading 12 steals. He has been in the lead-off spot for most of the season for the River Cats.
We caught up with Clark during the River Cats most recent home-stand to get his thoughts on his new organization, his big league experience last year and the journey through the minor leagues.
OaklandClubhouse: Has it been different being in a new organization after all of those years in the Giants organization?
Doug Clark: Yeah, it’s a new thing for me to try to adapt to a new organization. There is an adjustment period when you are trying to get to know a whole new group of guys, so that’s always tough, but these guys have been making it pretty easy for me. It’s been a nice change.
OC: Was it an adjustment period last year in your first full season at AAA?
DC: Well, I thought it was a big year for me. In AAA for the first time for a full season, to really get a true test and a true measuring stick for my ability to play in AAA, it was huge. I was pleased with the way I went about it and I was pleased with the guys who helped me out in the Giants organization. I owe them a lot of gratitude. It was nice to get that full year in and to see how I progressed throughout the year.
OC: What was your September call-up experience like?
DC: It was unbelievable. You have hopes and you have dreams when you start and you sign those papers when you are drafted to make it to the level of the best of the best. Through the course of going through Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A, you start to feel like you aren’t getting any closer. You go through that whole process of thinking like that.
So when you make it, it just validates all of the hard work and perseverance that you put into it. I know it just validates all of the stuff I have been through, going to winter ball, things like that, all the hard work. It was just an awesome experience to be up there. It was a dream come true.
OC: Was there a particular moment that you’ll take with you or does the whole month sort of blur together?
DC: Yeah, you know the whole month just sort of goes on fast-forward when you get called up. It seems to fly by and you never want to leave the park. There were a few moments I’ll take with me though. For instance, I actually went to a game in San Francisco as just a fan the year before. I had been done with my season and I wasn’t on the big league roster, so I went to watch a game. I remember sitting in the bleachers, watching the game and then a year later [from the field] I looked out at the same spot in the bleachers and remembered that I had just been out there a year earlier as a fan. It just made me feel that much better about the road I had ventured through to get to that point.
I know that there are a bunch of other guys in my situation out here who feel like, ‘Why am I playing this game, I’m never going to get there?’ But maybe they can look at my road and where I continue to go and take some inspiration from that that there is hope, maybe not to be an All-Star up there, but to get there.
OC: You were one of the big stars in the Mexican Winter Leagues this year. Was that your first winter league experience?
DC: No, I actually had been there three times before. I wanted to go there to beef up my resume. I had my best season there this year, however. I think that it had a lot to do with this last year and getting called up. It was just a big confidence booster for me. Down there for the third year, knowing what the league is like and getting to know some of the pitchers, it definitely helps. Guys come and go out of that league, but a number of the guys repeat, so you start to see some of the same pitchers again, which always helps. It was a good year.
It was tough to be away from home at Thanksgiving and the holidays, those are kind of the sacrifices that people don’t realize you go through in a year of playing baseball. Those are the sacrifices you put in to get to where you want to get to. It was good from a baseball standpoint, however. Now that I am with this organization, I am hoping to continue that success.
OC: Oakland A’s Manager Ken Macha said at the end of spring training that one of his biggest regrets was that he didn’t give more at-bats before you were sent down to minor league camp. Was spring training disappointing?
DC: Going to a couple of big league camps, I have gotten to see that you have a lot of guys there. You just have to understand the fact that you are going to get in when you get in. Of course, I’d loved to have played more and shown what I could do out there, but I understand the situation and all I could do is hold my breath and when I got out there, do my best to perform. You have that opportunity and you want to make the most of it.
I was grateful to be able to go to the Bay Bridge Series. That was a nice little perk for me to go and to be with the team and try to contribute in that sense. It was interesting to see the series from the opposite side of where I was the year before. It was a little bit weird, but that is how baseball is, the business-side of it. I’m just looking forward to getting back up there.