Oh man, this kid is smooth.
Max Clark, the Detroit Tigers’ No. 1 draft pick, stood in Comerica Park, wearing a Tigers jersey over his suit.
The bottom of his suit pants were rolled up, as the kids do these days, showing off a pair of blue-and-white Nike UNC Dunks — yes, the kid has style, too.
Paws, the Tigers mascot, came over and Clark gave him a bro-hug and high-five — Clark reacted with ease, so natural, so smooth and comfortable, even when hugging a mascot. This kid just oozes confidence.
Kayli Farmer, his girlfriend of four years, stood next to him.
“I keep saying, it’s like his face is following me around the city,” she said, smiling. “Everywhere I look — I keep seeing the same picture. So, it’s pretty exciting. But he’s put so much work into this.”
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Clark’s face appeared on the Comerica Park scoreboard once again on Friday night, right before he threw out the first pitch before the Tigers played the San Diego Padres.
“It’s so emotional,” said his mother, Angela Ankney. “Everyone has been so welcoming — the entire city.”
Friday turned into Max Clark Day at Comerica Park. He went on a tour of Little Caesars Arena, did a series of interviews — TV, radio and print — and even met with manager AJ Hinch in his office.
“He seemed pretty happy,” Hinch said. “So we caught up and wished him well until the next time I see him in his office. Hopefully it would be for a better team, even a better situation than what it is, but congrats to him and his family and I think we got a good player.”
Greene is the perfect person to copy
Why is Clark such a big deal?
Let me try to answer with a trivia question: Try to name the six Tigers draft picks since 2016 who have played in Detroit as a position player.
OK, sure, two are easy: Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson.
The other four? Hmm. Not so easy.
Three didn’t stay long: Jacob Robson, Kody Clemens and Ryan Kreidler.
The final one?
A hint: He is a true gem, considering he was a 19th rounder in 2019.
OK, give up?
It was none other than Kerry Carpenter.
If you want to know why this team is fighting so hard just to reach .500, it starts right there. They just haven’t found many positional players in the draft. I’m not even talking superstars. Just guys who have made the roster.
Pitchers? Sure. Tons of them.
But not positional players. Is it development or drafting? Well, that’s the chicken-or-egg argument; but it’s a moot point, for now, with a new front office and developmental team.
Which is why Clark is so important for this organization. By devoting a first-round pick to a positional player and giving him a $7.7 million bonus, it’s imperative for Clark to make it.
You want to know what I found encouraging?
He wants to emulate Greene.
“I watched Riley Greene a ton growing up,” Clark said. “He was really fun to watch at a really young age.”
More than anyone else in the organization, Greene and Clark have the most in common.
“Young, exciting, plays hard, gritty,” Clark said, describing Greene. “I definitely look at him now — be this guy in the organization.”
Amen. Be that guy.
I can’t imagine a better person, or player, to copy.
Greene is the ultimate pro. He, too, was a first-rounder of high school. A left-handed-hitting outfielder. Got the big bonus money. And Greene has handled the transition with class and composure, growing up before our eyes. He’s handled success and his struggles with class, taking that delicate journey from teenager to 20-something with so much composure and now, finding success along the way.
He is so grounded, even though he, too, got huge bonus money.
“I think it’s been a really underrated part of Riley’s development is how he’s well rounded in his personality and how he interacts with people,” Hinch said. “How grounded he is, his work ethic, his approach, his reaction to success and failure.”
Making Miggy upset — kind of
If Clark made one mistake on Friday, it was ticking off Miguel Cabrera.
“Are you taking BP?” Cabrera asked him in the Tigers clubhouse.
“I’m not; I’m under a little bit of workload protection,” Clark said.
Then, Cabrera started razzing him.
“He’s a little upset about it because his son’s apparently a big fan of mine,” Cl;ark said. “He’s been following me on social media for a while and knows who I am. And he was upset that he didn’t get to see me hit and his son.”
OK, so Miggy was just teasing. And if you get teased by Miggy, you have already done it.
Then, yes, Cabrera welcomed him properly.
“He’s incredibly welcoming and incredibly nice,” Clark said.
But there was another moment that told everything. After Clark did an interview, he walked over to a group of fans who stood behind a rope.
At least, I thought they were fans. It turns out, it was one of his old teammates — Jarren Purify, 17, who is from Detroit but played with him on the Indiana Bulls, a summer travel team.
“He’s so goofy,” Purify said. “He looks serious on the outside. If you get him in a dugout, he’s pretty cool man.”
Purify has actually played against him and with him.
“What’s it like playing against him?” I asked.
“Oh my gosh, it’s terrible,” said Purify, who is going to Clemson. “He’s so good. You can’t even get him out.”
“What’s he like as a player?” I asked.
“It’s pretty obvious he has a hit tool,” he said. “He can spray the gaps like crazy and then make it all the way to third in like three seconds. His defense is elite. He will take that little bloop fly ball and catch it. His angles are amazing. His reads are amazing. His power is really good. A lot of people were trying to smash him for not having a lot of power. I’ve seen it firsthand. He can hit it pretty far. I think in two or three years, I think he’ll be what Detroit needs — that spark.”
If Clark copies Greene, in darn near everything — how he acts and works and approaches each at bat and treats others — he’ll put himself in a great position.
The perfect example is right there.
Contact Jeff Seidel at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers have a great example for Max Clark to follow on the roster