The executive board of the Major League Baseball Players Association voted unanimously to appoint former player Tony Clark as the union's next executive director on Tuesday during its annual meeting in La Jolla, Calif. The final step in completing an orderly transition from the late Michael Weiner will be a vote by the general membership, which is expected to occur shortly.
During a conference call with reporters, Clark indicated that he expected to largely follow the direction charted by Weiner.
"Michael was a friend. Michael was an advisor. Michael was a mentor of mine," Clark said. "And the vision he laid out is the same vision we're going to continue."
Clark specifically mentioned "advancing players' rights" as part of continuing Weiner's legacy.
Clark is the first former player to head the union since Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller served as president from 1956-59, and Clark is the first ex-big leaguer to serve as MLBPA executive director.
"I am very humbled, very appreciate and very thankful," the 41-year-old said.
The MLBPA's first executive director, Frank Scott, was baseball's first player agent. Scott's successor, Marvin Miller, was an established labor leader when he was hired in 1966, and he championed the union until 1982. Clark's two immediate predecessors, Donald Fehr and Weiner, were lawyers. Clark expects his background to be an advantage.
"Having been on the field, being in a place where players are, with any of the number of challenges they have faced, both personally and professionally, I lend direct experience to the conversation," Clark said. ... "I think it's been a plus for our organization that throughout our history we've always had the right individual at the right time to do what needed to be done in support of players."
Free-agent outfielder Curtis Granderson, one of two MLBPA association representatives, the unions most senior player-leadership position, voiced his support of the 6-foot-8 former first baseman.
"Tony Clark has a very large role to fill. But what better person than one of the biggest people to ever play the game?" Granderson said. "Not just from a physical standpoint, but from a passion standpoint, knowledge and experience, having gone through three rounds of bargaining."
Clark has been serving as the MLBPA's acting executive director since Weiner's passed away on Nov. 22 after a 15-month battle with an inoperable brain tumor. He became active in union affairs after attending his first executive board meeting in 1999, joined the MLBPA staff in 2010 as director of player relations and was promoted to deputy executive director in July. He will oversee the union's day-to-day operations, including labor relations, business affairs and the Players Trust, the MLBPA's charitable arm.
"There is not a facet of our Basic Agreement or the personal and professional life of players that I am not interested in," Clark said. "Having gone through it, having been fortunate and blessed to play as long as I did ... it can be something as small as parking at the ballpark or something as big as revenue sharing. All those concern me."
"Patience," Clark said when asked the greatest lesson he'd learned from Weiner. "Rome was not built overnight; it was protected night to night. But at the end of the day, understanding how all the pieces fit together, having an appreciation for why we're here, what we do, why we do what we do lends itself to making sure snap decisions and snap judgments aren't made."
While the purpose of the conference call was to announce Clark's appointment, questions about the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program were inevitable. Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, the union's other association representative, and Granderson fielded a question about whether the players would be open to stiffening the penalties for players who test positive for PEDs.
"As this topic evolves, we expect to come away from this meeting with a better understanding of where we are as a membership and how we can address this moving forward," Guthrie said. "At this point we've only discussed a few things, but we have a day and a half of meetings left, and that's certainly on the docket."
Added Granderson: "That's one of the strengths of our union -- that all the members can and will be heard and every opinion will be taken into consideration before any decision is made."
Clark isn't sure when arbitrator Frederic Horowitz will hand down his decision on Alex Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension.
"There's no telling at this time when a decision might be rendered," Clark said. "An exact time frame, I can't give one to you, but our expectation is that sometime around the first of the year or thereafter we will have an idea as to where things stand."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.