Baseball

Former NPB slugger Matt Clark helps spark Mexico in Premier12 victory over Australia

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Matt Clark got the fastball he was looking for and crushed it. The ball landed near the stairs leading to the concourse in the rear portion of the stands in right field at Tokyo Dome and Clark took a slightly familiar trot around the bases.

Just like that Clark was back in 2013, when he was a member of the Chunichi Dragons and sending balls into the seats at stadiums across Japan.

Clark’s long blast on Tuesday came for Mexico, which earned a 3-0 win over Australia in their Premier12 matchup. The only thing missing for the 32-year-old was the famous Japanese baseball atmosphere, which should come Wednesday when he and Mexico face Japan.

“Tokyo is still one of my favorite places to play,” Clark said after the game. “The environment, obviously not as many fans today, but the next game we play against Japan I assume it’s going to be packed and it’s gonna be rocking and rolling and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Clark spent the 2013 season with Chunichi and hit 25 home runs and finished with 70 RBIs for the Central League club. He also played 11 games for the Orix Buffaloes in 2016, hitting a pair of home runs. Five of his homers with the Dragons came at Tokyo Dome, where he batted .286 in 11 games.

He’s serving as the designated hitter for the Mexicans, who are 5-0 on the field during the Premier12. He was 2-for-4 on Tuesday with a double and his booming homer to right.

“It’s like a blast from the past,” Clark said. “I feel like I was right back where I was a few years ago. This is one of my favorite places to play. The environment, it just feels like home.

“Hopefully I can just keep riding that momentum into the next game and we can put up a really good fight against Japan. It’s going to be a really fun game. I would expect nothing less from the Japanese team.”

He’s hoping the approach that’s carried him to this point will also pay off against the Japan on Wednesday.

“They’re always going to pitch me tough,” he said. “Their pitchers are always outstanding. They throw strikes, they throw lots of different pitches. Hopefully you get a pitch that you can drive and you don’t miss it. Because they don’t give you a whole lot of opportunities and balls over the plate. You just gotta be aggressive and stick to your plan and try not to get into theirs.

“I’m just gonna take my approach that I try and take. I can’t really change anything at the moment, but when the game comes around I’ll know who’s pitching and we’ll make a plan as a team. We’re just going to attack like we always do and try and do as much damage and drive as many guys in as we can and we can move on to the next game.”