Top 10 Moments of the 2000s: No. 5
Top 10 Moments of the 2000s: No. 5
Note: This is the sixth edition of a 10-part series chronicling the top 10 Kansas State Baseball moments of the 2000s, counting down to the Wildcats' 2010 season opener on February 19 against Delaware. The events were voted on by an eight-person panel consisting of: Head Coach Brad Hill; former Head Coach and Director of Development Mike Clark; Associate Athletics Director Casey Scott; Director of Baseball Operations Justin Tadtman; Sports Information Director Kenny Lannou; Baseball SID Ryan Lackey; and the Voices of K-State Baseball, Brian Smoller and Matt Walters.
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Without him, Kansas State Baseball would not be where it is today.
Mike Clark was the cornerstone for baseball at Kansas State during the growth stages of the program through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
That's why, after 17 years at the head of the program, Clark was celebrated as he announced his retirement from coaching on May 5, 2003.
Not only is Clark the only coach in any sport in school history to reach either the 300 or 400-win mark, he was also vital to the renovation project that made Frank Myers Field (now Tointon Family Stadium) one of the finest college baseball facilities in the Midwest.
Clark unselfishly gave everything he had to an institution that gave him a chance to lead his first Division I program back in 1987 and set the stage for the future of K-State Baseball.
That unselfishness took a big test during the 1999 season when the Wildcats played all 55 games on the road due to the construction of Tointon Family Stadium.
"The 1999 season was the toughest thing I've ever been through," Clark said at his retirement press conference.
But Clark stayed on board and saw the renovation project through. He then experienced one of his personal highs in coaching during the 2002 season as the Cats finished 30-25 overall and 13-13 in the Big 12. That 13-13 record gave the Cats a school-record fifth-place finish in the Big 12 and qualified them for their first-ever Big 12 Tournament.
Following the announcement of his retirement the next year, K-State won three of its last seven games. Two of those victories came against in-state rival Kansas, including a 4-3 victory in Clark's final home game.
For all the hard work Clark did on the field in overseeing the growth of the baseball program, he also oversaw the growth of young men throughout college.
"To me personally, he had made a great impact on my life, made me a better person and has shaped the way my life is going to end up," said senior first baseman and co-captain Tim Doty at the time of Clark's retirement. "I want to thank him for that and everything he's done for me."
"Mike meant everything to me," echoed former player Dan Skala said. "When I heard the news that he was resigning, I wrote him a letter because I would have been too emotional to call. No matter what problems you had in your life, you left Mike Clark in a good mood."
Clark returned to Kansas State in August 2007 as the director of development, using his strong K-State ties and passion to help raise money for the athletic department.
When the Wildcats earned their first-ever NCAA Regional bid in 2009, current head coach Brad Hill made sure to give recognition to Clark's hard work to get the program where it is today.
""It's a great day for coach Mike Clark," said Hill after the Cats earned an at-large bid into last year's tournament. "All the hard work that he did put us into this position."And when the Wildcats took the field at Reckling Park in Houston, Clark was right there in attendance to take it all in, seeing the culmination of work and dedication that began 22 years earlier.
Top 10 K-State Baseball Moments of the 2000's
No. 10: Into the Bottom of the 20th We Go... (2/9)
No. 9: Cats Top KU Before Record Crowd (2/10)
No. 8: Hill, Morris Garner National Awards (2/11)
No. 7: K-State Advances to First Big 12 Tournament (2/12)
No. 6: Cats Take Two at No. 2 Texas
No. 5: Clark Retires as Winningest Coach in School History (2/14)
No. 4: February 15
No. 3: February 16
No. 2: February 17
No. 1: February 18