A lot of eyes are on Max Clark this summer, including several sets that could help determine his near-term future.
Among the leading candidates to be the top overall pick in the 2023 Major League Baseball draft, Clark knows he’ll be under heavy scrutiny.
“We call this the money-making year,” he said. “You put all of your chips in the pot, and you have to go out there and play. Especially being ranked No. 1 or having that potential 1/1 draft type thing, it’s either keep your stock the same or let it fall. So I’m going out there every single weekend trying to do my thing and keep my stock where it is.”
The possibilities for where Clark could be a year from now are tantalizing to think about, but the pressures that come with them are very real — which is part of why the Franklin star so thoroughly cherishes the high school season.
He made the most of it, too — after another overpowering spring, Clark is the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year for a second straight time.
There were still MLB scouts in attendance at many of the Grizzly Cubs’ games this season, but the scrutiny at high school games isn’t nearly as intense as it is on the summer travel circuit. But that doesn’t mean that Clark didn’t take the game just as seriously when he donned that Franklin uniform.
His production — a .577 batting average (and absurd .717 on-base percentage), nine home runs, 32 RBIs, 41 runs scored, 31 walks and 22 stolen bases — was irrefutable evidence of that.
“I do view it as a stress reliever; it’s fun to go out and play with my guys,” Clark said of the spring. “But I still take it with the same intensity. A lot of people will kind of say it’s their ‘off time’ or just getting ready for summer ball. I take it with the same approach. I’m ready to go by April 1, and I take that throughout my entire summer and entire fall until Oct. 1, when I’m done.”
Clark was equally dominant on the mound, allowing just two hits while striking out 39 batters — but that dominance was limited to just 16 innings of action, with a no-hitter against Whiteland on April 19 his final pitching appearance of the season.
The decision to rest his arm for the showcases and tournaments that will help determine his value to major league franchises didn’t come easily; Clark knows that his pitching could have made a difference down the stretch for a Grizzly Cubs team that was already limited by other injuries and ailments. But he also has several million reasons to play it safe, a reality that the people closest to Clark are well aware of.
“It really stunk,” Clark said. “I did feel like I kind of let my guys down, but they all understood the bigger picture — I had to shut down and get ready for the summer. And I’m fortunate enough to have a support group of teammates, coaches and town that, it’s okay with them. They understand that there are bigger things in the future. So yes, it really sucked, but it was for a good reason. I’m healthy, I’m ready to go, and we’re going to go tear it up this summer.”
Once he’s done tearing it up, Clark plans to come back and start off his senior year by returning to the football field — a risk, to be sure, but Clark reasons that “you can get hurt doing anything.” Then, he’ll have one more baseball season in Grizzly Cub attire before his name gets called on draft day and his life changes forever.
Whether he ends up signing a pro contract next summer or following through on his verbal commitment to play college ball at Vanderbilt, Clark will always ride for his community just as hard as it rides for him.
“It just goes to show that people can play anywhere,” he said. “I’m not a kid from Cali, I’m not at a prep school, I’m not playing baseball 72 hours a week. I’m just a kid from Franklin, Indiana, and that’s a very big mark in a town that has always had my back.”
The 2022 All-County team for baseball:
Garrison Barile, Center Grove junior: Led the Trojans’ potent offense with seven home runs and 43 runs batted in … Batted .487 and had a .973 slugging percentage … Totaled eight doubles, four triples and 29 runs scored.
Tyler Cerny, Center Grove senior: Indiana University recruit hit .391 with 15 doubles, three triples and two home runs … Scored 36 runs and drove in another 22 … Member of the South All-Star team.
Max Clark, Franklin junior: Earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors for a second straight time after hitting .577 with 9 homers, 32 RBIs, 41 runs scored and 22 stolen bases … Drew 31 walks and posted a 1.844 OPS.
Caden Cornett, Center Grove junior: Helped lead a deep Trojans pitching staff, going 4-0 with a 1.49 earned-run average … Recorded 36 strikeouts against 15 walks in 35 innings of work.
Mitchell Evans, Center Grove senior: Batted .380 with four home runs and 13 doubles, driving in 34 runs and scoring 39 more … Headed to Indiana University as a preferred walk-on in football.
Owen Guilfoy, Center Grove senior: University of Indianapolis signee batted .466 with 10 doubles … Drove in 41 runs and scored an additional 32 for the Trojans.
Drew Helton, Whiteland sophomore: Led the young Warriors at the plate, batting .400 with a team-best 15 RBIs, and on the pitcher’s mound (5-1, 1.03 ERA, 36 strikeouts vs. 11 walks).
Jackson Henry, Franklin junior: Shouldered a heavy burden for the injury-riddled Grizzly Cubs, posting a 2.90 ERA in 48 1/3 innings pitched while batting .357 with three homers and 22 RBIs.
Aidan Murphy, Center Grove senior: A consistent force on the mound for the Trojans, finishing with a spotless 3-0 record and a 1.60 ERA … Struck out 39 batters in 37 2/3 innings of work.
Landen Smith, Greenwood sophomore: Second-year starter took a step forward, leading the Woodmen offensively with a .386 average, four homers, 23 runs, 23 RBIs, eight doubles and three triples.
Evan Zapp, Center Grove junior: Provided some more punch for a loaded Trojans lineup, hitting .389 with four home runs, 28 runs scored and 24 runs batted in.
Landen Basey, Franklin; Gabe Bennett, Edinburgh; Brock Bragg, Indian Creek; Jagger Bray, Indian Creek; Noah Coy, Center Grove; Drew Culbertson, Center Grove; Logen Devenport, Franklin; Peyton Dickens, Whiteland; Justin Donenfeld, Greenwood; Drew Doty, Franklin; Eli Ellis, GCA; Sam Griffith, Center Grove; Trey Harney, GCA; Travis Jones, Edinburgh; Carter Modlin, Indian Creek; Ben Murphy, Center Grove; Nolan Netter, Franklin; Charlie Overton, GCA; Riley Palmeter, Edinburgh; Conner Stidham, Greenwood; Jarrett Turner, Edinburgh; Donavin Woodall, Whiteland