BY: RYAN KAUFMAN
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a third time…well Matt Clark doesn’t get fooled three times. After two strikeouts in his first two at-bats against Memphis Redbirds lefty John Gast Tuesday night, Colorado Springs Sky Sox First Baseman Matt Clark hit an 0-2 changeup 443 feet over the right field wall at Security Service Field to tie the game, his 7th home run of the season.
“He kept fooling me with his changeup,” Clark said after the Sky Sox 10-3 win. “I waited him out and he finally missed with it, I made a good swing on it and made him pay for it.”
Clark (Miller Park Prospects #37 prospect) has been making a lot of guys pay for it this month. In May, he is hitting .340 with a slugging percentage of .702 and an OPS of 1.098. Most of that damage has been done on the road, where he has been good historically. He had a higher batting average away from Herschel Greer Stadium in Nashville as a member of the Sounds in 2014.
“On the road you just go out and try to do the same thing, and I’ve basically done that,” Clark says. “You just try to do what you do every day and hopefully it turns out.”
While his .279 average away from Colorado Springs is impressive, it pales in comparison to the .333 mark he has at Security Service Field. 4 of his 7 home runs have also come playing in front of the home fans, including Tuesday’s blast. Many have the conception that because Coors Field in Denver is a hitter’s haven, the minor league stadium in the same state is also very friendly to hitters. This is not the case according to Clark.
“This place is by no means a hitter’s park,” Clark contends. “The wind blows in here pretty much every day.”
His manager Rick Sweet agrees.
“If he were playing in Milwaukee, you can add 7-to maybe 10 home runs to his list,” Sweet contends. “Playing in our ballpark here has cost him at least three or four home runs, playing in Nashville cost him two more, you just don’t see ballparks at the big leagues like you see here.”
With the numbers Clark has put up this season, teams and their pitchers have taken the necessary precautions.
“Teams are not pitching to him, they’re pitching around him,” believes Sweet. “It gets a little frustrating when that happens, but he’s handling it well.”
Tuesday was a prime example of that. Redbirds’ starter John Gast fed Clark a steady diet of off-speed pitches before he paid for it.
“You can’t keep throwing him the same stuff over and over,” Sweet warns. “He’s going to make the adjustment, that’s what hitting’s all about and he did it in the middle of the game.”
Clark is even making adjustments earlier than that. He has a higher slugging percentage (.568) when he is behind in the count than when he is ahead (.514).
While the start to the season has him in the Top 10 in the Pacific Coast league in hits, home runs, total bases, and RBIs, Clark knows that he has to carry it all the way through.
“You can put up some good numbers at the beginning of the year, but that doesn’t mean they will be good at the end of the year,” Clark says. “I always try and finish strong and that’s when I feel I am at my best.”
If he continues this current trend, he may be trying to finish the season strong at Miller Park.