For a man who usually works into the wee hours, Tony Clark spends a lot of every day on the job, too. Clark Standard Time, for a night game, mandates his arrival at Bank One Ballpark by about 1 p.m., and he considers himself tardy if he is not in the clubhouse by 1:30.
"I refuse to let a lack of success be the result of a lack of work and preparation,’’ Clark said.
"You can’t determine the ball finding a hole or you getting a hit, but you can determine your preparation for that day. When my career is said and done, I want to be able to look in the mirror and know that I gave everything I had.’’
Clark, 33, can stare at a pretty handsome set of numbers these days.
In a renaissance year, Clark has 29 home runs and 82 RBIs, figures that rival his best full seasons in Detroit in the late 1990s despite playing time that only became regular at midseason.
Clark has the best ratio of home runs and RBIs per at-bat in the major leagues this season, better than Andruw Jones, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez.
"When he gets up to the plate, we all have a good feeling,’’ Chad Tracy said. "With that frame and that body and that wing span, he covers a lot of the plate.
"He shows you every night what he can do.’’
It may have something to do with his approach every day.
Clark developed an extended routine in his early seasons in Detroit, when he adopted a stretching and flexibility program to ensure compliance from a balky back that was injured in the first week of basketball practice in his freshman year at the University of Arizona.
He has tweaked the regimen along the way to include different hitting drills and discussions, to the point this season that he spends a part of every afternoon in the indoor batting cages with hitting instructor Mike Aldrete.
The session may last 15 minutes and it may last an hour, and the two not only work on normal hitting drills — batting tee, soft toss, short toss — but also swing planes and the seemingly infinite adjustments all hitters must consider.
"There is no magic potion,’’ Clark said. "We talk. We work. Aldo has been unbelievable for me. He has been willing to take the time every day, every game, to help prepare me for my role.’’
Clark and Aldrete, both in their first seasons with the D-Backs, have been working together since spring training.
"Every day when he leaves the batting cage, he has a real good feeling about his swing and his approach. And he tries to recreate that every single day,’’ Aldrete said.
"We don’t put a time limit on it. The time limit is, get that feeling, repeat it a few times, and then you are ready to go. One of the things we do more than anything — he talks with me through his swing so I know how he is feeling and I compare that to what I am seeing.
"The bottom line is, he is very knowledgable about his swing and he makes his adjustments.’’
That exercise completed, Clark returns to the clubhouse for a snack and a change of clothes, perhaps having time to sneak in some video work, before entering normal game day mode — stretch, outdoor batting practice, etc.
"When you consider the average career in the big leagues is three years, the least you can do is spend time trying to be the best at your craft,’’ Clark said.
"I’ve been fortunate this year. I’m not naive enough to think that it is always going to fall in or you’re always going to come through. You concentrate all year on the things that you can control.
"You hope that when the time comes, you’re in position when you can contribute something.’’