Clark Brothers Leave Baycats After 20 Year-Run
By Ryan Eakin
Through the first 20 seasons in existence for the Barrie Baycats, they have won seven championships and have appeared in 11 finals.
That is impressive no matter which team in the Intercounty Baseball League accomplished that feat but it is even more impressive that the Baycats accomplished it.
Why? Because in a league with big markets such as Toronto, London, Kitchener, and Hamilton, it should not be a team in Barrie that has had the success they have had over the last 20 years, as the pool of locally talented ball players does not come close to the cities I mentioned.
But success the Baycats have had and it all comes down to the culture this organization had built through their first two decades in existence.
Players from those very markets listed above came to Barrie in droves with the understanding that the Baycats organization was a family, from top to bottom.
There is no better example than Mike and Tim Clark -- literally.
The brothers have been mainstays in the Baycats organizations for years -- with Mike, the Baycats’ PA announcer, being a day one volunteer and Tim having joined the franchise in 2003.
The pair represented everything that has been great about the Baycats, due to their work ethic, kindness, and knowledge of the team.
But as so many have in the last year, the brothers decided the time was now to retire after two outstanding decades devoted to the Baycats franchise.
In a recent interview, Mike said he knew the time was right to retire.
“I have been thinking about it for the last two years,” said the man known as ‘Mic Man.’ “Tim and I had been talking about it for the last little bit and while he may have been a little more definite about what he wanted to do, I was there with him, more so since COVID."
“I was thinking of pulling the plug after the ‘19 season but I wanted one more season and I like round numbers, so I said ‘I’ll do year number 20 and then jump off,’ laughed Clark.
When Mike announced his retirement to me back in August, I was surprised, because my first thought was "what the hell is a Baycats game going to sound like without Mike Clark as the PA guy?"
I was not the only person to think that, as Jordan Castaldo, the greatest hitter in franchise history, echoed those same words after his Maple Leafs eliminated the Baycats from the playoffs last month.
“I don't know what it's going to sound like next year without him in the park because even when I was with Oshawa, those two guys were up there in the booth. Those two guys are as much a part of the fabric of this organization as any player was. I'm super happy for both of them and hopefully, they can find another hobby that they enjoy as much as this.”
Mike said while it was a tough decision and it will be weird not announcing games for the Baycats next season, he knew it was the right time to leave.
“It was just one of those things where I got the feeling it was time to maybe step aside and give the gig to someone else if maybe someone else was looking for a chance like that.
“The last thing I wanted to do was overstay my welcome, because we both know Dave [former Baycats president David Mills] would never say ‘it’s time for you to go’, so I thought now was just the right time,” said Mike, before joking that maybe that is something Mills would actually tell him!
Informing Mills and the Baycats in August, the Clark brothers knew their last game would be whenever the Baycats got eliminated from the playoffs - so when the Baycats lost game one to the Maple Leafs in their best-of-three series last month, they knew game two at home may very well be their last game with the team.
Mike said it was a special day at the ballpark, starting with a pregame speech from Mills on the field. “The comments that Dave made were totally appreciated and it caught me by total surprise. It took me a couple of innings to think about what I wanted to say but I was totally unaware that he was going to say something."
“Between that and the response from the fans, it brought a few tears to my eyes, I will admit that and then reading Castaldo’s comments to you after the game saying ‘we were a part of the fabric of the organization’, it was a lot to take in."
“I was completely floored by the day and the messages people sent me after the game. It touched me greatly.”
Tim echoed what his brother had to say about their last game with the Baycats.
“We will never forget the last game. While we were surprised at the pregame ceremony, we weren't shocked. That's the kind of organization that the Baycats are, led by Dave."
“It was our pleasure working with everyone, including the executives, players, volunteers, and let's not forget Joe Breedon's team of groundskeepers over the years. The pregame ceremony was chilling for us. It was awesome to see the teams taking their hats off for us. I took a picture of the scoreboard with our tribute on it (thanks Brian) and immediately sent it to our wives. After the fourth inning Mike did a great blurb, as he always does, thanking everyone. During the game people including the executive/volunteers and fans expressed their thanks to both of us."
“After the game Mike and I had a pop with Dave Mills and Paul Marley, Castaldo came up and shook both our hands as did Jeff Cowan -- both very classy individuals. As we were leaving (Baycats manager) Josh Matlow shook both our hands. After I got home I read your article on the Leafs’ website and was in awe of Jordan's comments. I recently watched the last game on YouTube and very much appreciate your comments and Patrick [Melbourne]’s comments during the ninth inning."
“Mike and I did not do what we did to receive all the thanks we received. We did it because we love the game and all the people associated with the game and league. Receiving all those accolades was just incredible."
“We can't express enough how great Dave and the Baycats have treated us over our time with them and how grateful we are to them. To Dave, Paul and Keeper [Gary Inskeep] and everyone else, thanks.”
One of the more special moments of their last day came in the later stages of the game, when Mike handed his mic off to Cowan’s Dad to announce what may end up being one of the last at-bats of his playing career.
Mike also would end up handing the mic off to Mills, who was also taking part in his last game as a member of the Baycats, although that was unknown at the time.
Mike said it was a special moment.
“At the time, the game was a blowout -- it wasn’t even close -- and Jeff’s dad was up in the press box talking to us and as Jeff was coming up to bat, an idea clicked in my head that led me to ask Brian [Jeff’s dad] ‘what about you take Jeff’s last at-bat?' He said ‘no, no, no’, and I said ‘here’s your opportunity’, and he finally said ‘give me the mic.’"
“It was a special moment and of course Jeff’s response was total class as you would expect. I knew Brian was touched by that moment."
“I then asked Dave if he wanted to give it a go and he ended up delivering a poor intimation of Bob Sheppard, the former Yankees PA guy,” laughed Mike. “It was just a great way for all of us to go out, as I’m sure you know what Dave’s plans are. It was a great way for him to have one last kick of the can and for Jeff to have his moment with Brian.”
What was most special -- for Mike and Tim -- is not anything else that has been written about in this article.
It’s that they got to leave together after spending almost two decades together in the press box.
Tim said that is what matters most to him.
“It is very special to leave with Mike at the same time. I didn't think he would ever leave. He surprised me when he told me his intentions,” said Tim, who joked that he has been thinking of the 2021 season being his last for a while because his contract with the Baycats was coming to an end and wanted to test free agency. (You should have included an out-clause in your previous contract as I did, Tim!)
“...As for the two decades working side by side, it was nothing less than great. Mike and I know what each other thinks. We did have some disagreements on some of my calls as scorekeeper. We talked through them and came up with what we felt was the correct call. You were a part of this as well when you did the audio. It was great to share some IBL trivia with both you and Mike during breaks and we had lots of great conversations. The feeling of working side by side with a family member can never be replaced nor properly described."
"There's a saying out there that ‘you can pick your friends but not your family’. In this case we win both ways."
Mike ended the interview by sharing the same sentiment.
“Once the game was done, I said to Tim ‘let's have a beer with Mills and Marley to put a bow on this whole thing.’
“That was a great way to finish it up but an even better way to finish it up was getting to sit beside Tim for not just the last game but for the last 17 years."
“It was the biggest thrill I had as a member of the Baycats."