By Patti Pagni

For The Elmhurst Independent

 

As the 40 rounds of Major League Baseball’s recent draft wound down, 22-year-old Clark Brinkman’s heartbeat sped up. The Creighton University redshirt junior and 2014 ICCP graduate had good reason to believe he was going to be drafted, but as the three-day draft played out, the drama built like an extra-inning ballgame. Four pro teams expressed interest in the centerfielder, but Brinkman couldn’t be sure until he heard a team call his name. And then the phone rang.

“On day three, the [Detroit] Tigers’ local scout called me between the 29th and the 30th round and said, ‘Listen up…we’re gonna be calling your name pretty soon,’” he said. “I was watching the MLB draft tracker online with my brother, and my mom was listening to the audio; they called my name during the 32nd round.

“My mom heard my name and kind of cried and lost her breath a little. It was very emotional…and a pretty surreal moment.”

 

A different life begins

Brinkman has already joined the rookie-league team in Lakeland, Fla., and will participate in the Gulf Coast League season, which runs through the end of August.

“I was told to bring my glove and some cleats, and I knew I was getting picked up by an intern at the airport,” he said. “I don’t know much more other than I was told I’d have access to what I need, and I’ll be put up in dorms. I’ll have my physical and finish up my contract, get equipment, meet with the coaches; I’m kind of getting the feel for how this is going to work.

“Getting drafted is definitely something I’ve thought about and have been working very hard for. Baseball has always been my best sport and it’s a dream come true to be able to play at the professional level.

“I knew how well I could play, but my freshman year of college was kind of disappointing. I transferred to junior college (McHenry County College) sophomore year and I caught my stride. The mental aspect of the game is a huge part of success; I went back to basics and put in a lot of work so I could bring my game to the next level.”

Brinkman transferred to Division I Creighton in Omaha, Neb., for the 2017 season, knocked his game up a notch and gained national attention for his defensive play when two of his diving catches in centerfield were featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10.

“That definitely didn’t hurt – getting those catches on SportsCenter,” he said.

What also helps tremendously is Brinkman’s work ethic.

 

IC Varsity Coach weighs in

Zach Rodeghero was the Head Varsity Coach at ICCP in Elmhurst where Brinkman was a standout three-sport athlete in baseball, basketball and football. He also was a four-time All-Metro Suburban Conference baseball honoree who graduated with high honors.

“Clark has a winner’s mentality and he is most hard on himself because he has always strived for success,” said Rodeghero, who coached Brinkman as a four-year starter at ICCP. “He’s a competitor any coach would want on his team.

“First of all, he’s tall with a good, athletic build, and he has much quickness and athletic ability. He’s also extremely coachable and has big respect for the game.

“I got to know Clark and his family pretty well while I was coaching at IC. His dad was Clark’s biggest fan and a big fan of the team as well. He always asked if he could grab sandwiches for the team in between games or help set up.”

 

Knowing his late father is with him

While Brinkman waited for his name to be called, his mom Sue and his brother Stone, 20, were right by his side. Missing was his dad Scott, who passed away suddenly at the age of 54 in April of 2017.

“I think my dad always had it in the back of his mind that [being drafted] might happen to me,” said Brinkman. “It was so special having my brother and mom with me and even though my dad wasn’t physically there, I knew he was with us, and I know he’s proud from up there.”

Clark Addison Brinkman’s first and middle names, obvious nods to the streets made famous by historic Wrigley Field, were not chosen on a whim.

“My parents met in the bleachers at Wrigley Field, so I have basically been born and raised a Cubs fan,” he said. “When the Tigers scout called me, one of the things he asked me if I was named for the streets…I told him I was. He actually thought it was pretty cool.

“He also told me he likes what he sees from me and he likes my style of play. He told me he vouched for me within the Tigers’ organization, and that means a lot.

“As soon as I got drafted, my phone started blowing up. I think I’ve finally returned every text and I’m grateful for the support. I have some butterflies, but I think they’ll calm down once I get going down there in Florida.

“I can’t say for sure what the future holds…all I can do is become the best player I can be, and I believe I can move up within the organization…it’s just surreal.”

 

 

 

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