Don't get former Springfield baseball standout Zach Clark wrong -- he doesn't mind getting recognized -- but he's got his eyes on the big picture.
Clark was named the Pioneer League Player of the Week for the June 26-July 2 after hitting .409, including three home runs and 12 RBIs for the Rookie League Helena (Mont.) Brewers.
"I don't really like to try to think about stuff like that because then I kind of get distracted from what I'm actually trying to do," Clark said of the honor. "The minute that (I get) all caught up in his stats, that's kind of when I'm going to go downhill. I knew I was having a good week. Player of the week, it's a pretty cool, refreshing little thing to do, but at the end of the day, it just kind of like a little, just a real small, small accolade compared to what I'm trying to do."
What Clark, like many other minor-league baseball players, is trying to do is climb the baseball ladder in hopes of eventually getting called up to the Major Leagues. But for now, he's putting his time in in Helena and continuing his education as a professional baseball player.
Clark was a district MVP at Springfield and signed with Southeastern Louisiana out of high school. He played a season for the Lions, playing in 10 games with one start while batting .111 with one RBI.
He transferred to Pearl River Community College in Poplarville, Miss., where he played in 40 games, hitting .338 with 11 home runs, 37 RBIs, 37 runs scored and 24 stolen bases. He signed with Alabama, but opted to turn pro after the Brewers selected him in the 19th round of the MLB draft last year, and he signed with Milwaukee last July 4.
"I was just ready to get the show on the road and see how pro ball was going to work out," Clark said. "I was just kind of ready to kind of pursue it."
Clark's education in becoming a pro baseball player began roughly a year ago when he was assigned to Arizona League Brewers. There, he hit .252 with 6 doubles, 4 triples, 2 home runs, 16 RBIs and 6 stolen bases in 30 games. Those numbers, in part, helped Clark get assigned to Helena.
"Honestly man, it feels longer (than a year since signing)," Clark said. "I mean, this is the first time I've gotten out of Arizona. I've been in the AZL Rookie League, and then I was in instructional league, and then spring training and then extended spring training, so I feel like it's been a while."
And while Clark said he's grateful for the time he spent in Arizona, he also realizes the move to Helena is part of his career progression.
"It helped," Clark said of his time in Arizona. "The way I kind of see it, it's kind of like baby steps, because in Arizona, there's literally no fans or anything like that. It's literally just the baseball aspect of it. You're playing on side fields.
"Then you move up to another level, now there's fans, stadiums, media, stuff like that. It's kind of cool how it kind of just adds on. Then once you get to Double-A, Triple-A, then they start adding. It's like adding decks of seating. Arizona definitely helped. It definitely made me appreciate being able to get out of there. Even if it is just another level of rookie ball, it definitely makes me appreciate it."
Clark got his first taste of the difference between the Arizona League and Rookie League while playing against Missoula Osprey and an announced crowd of 4,919 earlier this month.
"I don't feel like the baseball has changed much," Clark said. "At the end of the day, once you slow it down, it's all the same game. The biggest difference is easily the fans and media. In Arizona, the only people in the stands are the pitchers that are charting the games and stuff. And then two nights ago, we had 4,900 people at the game in Missoula, which isn't a crazy amount of people. But 5,000 people compared to zero people, that's a pretty big difference. Then they've got all the media stuff, and you've got to learn how to do that and whatnot."
And while Clark said the bus rides "can be kind of brutal", he's settling into life in minor league baseball and its sometimes monotonous schedule.
"There's a lot more stuff that goes into it," he said. "This daily schedule is a lot better than what they have to do in extended spring training, so I'd much rather be on this schedule."
Clark is hitting .311 with 2 doubles, a triple and, 3 home runs and a team-leading 15 RBIs and 5 stolen bases through 15 games.
"Honestly, probably one of the biggest things is I'm just staying super relaxed," Clark said of his mindset this season. "I'm trying to breathe a lot, trying to really calm down and focus while I'm on the on-deck circle. That way, when I get up to the plate, I have my plan and I know what I'm trying to do, so that way the game is slowed down as much as possible. My body knows what to do, so that way, when I get up there, all I have to focus on the pitch I want to hit."
Along the way, Clark has already crossed paths with former Denham Springs and Southeastern pitcher Mac Sceroler, who gave up 2 hits, 3 walks and 5 earned runs with 3 strikeouts in an inning to pick up the loss in his pro debut on July 4 as Helena scored a 5-4 win over the Billings Mustangs.
Clark went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in a game that featured a 5-run first inning in which Sceroler surrendered a grand slam to Yerald Martinez.
Results aside, Clark said he was happy to talk with Sceroler before the game.
"Honestly, it's pretty awesome," he said of playing against Sceroler. "Me and Mac, we've played a pretty good deal of baseball together and kind of played with each other in a lot of areas of the country, so it was kind of cool that me and him face off a thousand miles away up in Billings. Montana."
In the meantime, Clark said he'll keep grinding away and keep waiting on the call to move up, even if he knows it may be out of his hands.
"It's kind of stressful to think about the whole moving up process because the way it kind of works, something's got to happen at the level ahead of you for there to be a spot for you," he said. "You could really just be raking for a month and then nothing happens ahead of you and you just can't go anywhere. It's just how it us, so I try not to really think about it and just try to do what I can control. If I thought about all the other stuff, it would probably drive me crazy."