Caleb Clark’s baseball dreams began at McKinnell Square Park in Orillia when he was just three years old.
After years of dedication and hard work, Clark is now on his way to pitch under the bright lights of Hawks Field at Haymarket Park, the home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers, a Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) baseball team.
The 17-year-old Orillia Secondary School student recently turned down an offer of commitment to attend St. John’s University in New York City, and instead committed to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“At the end of the day, I think Nebraska is a better fit for me. They are hungry to win and it has a home-like feel to me,” Clark explained.
The dominant left-handed pitcher and first baseman will play the 2021 season with the Great Lakes Canadians out of London in the Canadian Premier Baseball League, before heading down to the United States in 2022 to start his collegiate career.
"I’m excited to go play in the States, I played for a team in South Carolina when I was 11 years old, and with my current team, we travel to the U.S. three or four times a year, so I’ve played against that kind of competition before,” Clark said.
“Obviously, college is a different level, but I have played against guys from America and I know what it takes to compete down there," he added.
Clark says the pressures of playing Division I baseball, and being scouted by Major League Baseball scouts on a nightly basis, isn’t something that will affect his game or mindset. He says he doesn’t really feel pressure when he’s on the diamond; he’s too focused on competing in the moment.
“I honestly don’t even notice scouts when I’m playing. After the game I’ll talk to my dad about that stuff if I need to, but during the game, I’m focused on me and the catcher. I’ve learned to focus and cut that stuff out,” he said.
Clark says he never once hesitated to continue to chase his dream of playing Division 1 NCAA baseball in the U.S., despite the country’s recent social and political unrest, as well as the monstrous amounts of COVID-19 cases that continue to rise on a daily basis.
“I know it’s definitely dangerous times right now, but I’m hoping that in a couple of years things will have settled down,” Clark explained.
“To be honest, it’s not really something I focus on, my focus is on playing Division I baseball, hopefully winning a College World Series, and getting my education," he said.
Despite training facilities being put on lockdown, and games and practices being paused, Clark believes he has become a better player during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it’s given him more time to work on his physical wellbeing.
“I’ve been using this time to train two or three times a day, hitting the weights, getting bigger, getting stronger, and I think I’m progressing. I can feel myself getting better,” Clark said.
Playing Division I baseball is something Clark has been physically preparing for since he decided to join the Great Lake Canadians back when he was in Grade 8. But now Clark is turning to his coaches, teammates, and family for advice on how to mentally handle being a collegiate athlete.
“I’m asking a lot of questions to my coaches. I have a couple of friends who play college baseball, and my dad played football at Queen's University, so I’ve been talking to them, and I’m trying to ask as many questions as possible to find out what goes on during a day in the life of a college athlete,” Clark said.
“That way I can prepare myself to get up at six in the morning for a workout, and then go to an early morning class... there are a lot of moving parts in college and I have to keep up with everything.”
The biggest challenge for the Orillia Secondary School student will be moving his life to another country, away from his friends and family in Ontario.
“I’ve lived three hours away from my family for the last year and a half, but I still think being 17 hours away is going to be a challenge, but I will get used to it,” Clark said.
When Clark attends the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2022, he will be doing so on a full scholarship, which was earned through his academics, and not through his baseball talents. Clark will be taking a degree in sports media.
“I think it means more than the actual baseball part to me. My parents have worked so hard to give me this opportunity,” Clark said.
“To have my whole academics paid for, for the next four years, and my parents don’t have to worry about anything, that is probably one of the biggest achievements of my life.”