For Richland High's Clark, Draft a natural step

Outfielder has developed into top prospect by staying in tune with strengths

For Richland High's Clark, Draft a natural step

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, Texas -- The Dallas-Fort Worth area's top prospect in the MLB Draft didn't get to this point by taking endless hitting lessons, playing to impress scouts or trying to be someone else.

Richland High senior Trenton Clark, who MLB.com ranks as the No. 12 overall Draft prospect, has always tried to stay true to himself. The 6-foot outfielder with a sturdy build will tell you he's not quite like any other player.

"You grew up watching people on TV, and still everything with the player Draft is comps, comps, comps," Clark said. "'Who does he look like?' I've never tried to look like anybody. I've just done what's natural to me. … I like to do things by myself and not having a cookie-cutter look at it."

Clark grips the bat with his thumbs up, similar to a golf grip. He developed a high leg kick in his stride, and he's never taken formal hitting lessons. Richland coach Chuck Wells said that's part of what makes Clark special.

"It's not someone saying, 'OK, you have to have your hands this way and your feet this way and you can't have a high leg kick,' whatever the case may be," Wells said. "He's learning it by doing what's feeling right, not because he had to pay someone $80 an hour to teach him."

But that doesn't mean Clark is independent to a fault or suffers from any sort of ego problem. Wells raved about Clark's uncanny maturity, and the idea of being an MLB Draft pick is still somewhat surreal to Clark. He signed with Texas Tech, but the chances of him playing for the Red Raiders are slim.

"I want to play the game I love for as long as I can," Clark said. "I want to do it 20 years, I want to be a Hall of Famer, I want to be the best player. But at the same time, I just want to play the game I love as hard as I can for as long as I can."

Clark said he grew up a Rangers fan, and though mock drafts don't have him going quite as high as Texas' No. 4 pick, Clark is plenty familiar with team's scouts and management.

Clark also said he has a respect for history-rich organizations such as the Cardinals and Cubs. Makes sense -- he said he's constantly studying and trying to learn more about the game, and an assistant coach got him into watching all of Ken Burns' 18 1/2-hour documentary "Baseball" before each of the past two seasons.

And Clark seems to have all the intangibles an organization could want. He was big fish in a small pond at Richland, but Wells said the way he helped younger teammates means his presence will impact the Rebels for years to come.

"It's crazy how many people come up to the field now," Wells said. "But it was never about him. It wasn't, 'Well everybody's here to see Trent, Trent has to put on a show,' He didn't want that. You can ask any teammate -- it wasn't like this was the Trent Clark show and we're all just here getting to watch."

But Clark still put on a show in his own way. He hit .441 with 10 home runs and made all-state as a junior, and he was so feared he was walked constantly as a senior. Clark also made waves when he stared for 18-under Team USA last summer and impressed in the Perfect Game All-American Game in August. He has plus speed, can hit for contact as well as power and is a capable outfielder with a good sense for the game.

Clark also keeps a close circle of family and friends, who he will have over on Draft day as he awaits his chance to become a pro player.

"We're going to get together and see what happens and hope for the best," Clark said. "It's weird to know that I'm living every little kid's dream, and I try to remember that in every step."

The 2015 Draft will take place from Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Cody Stavenhagen is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.