This week’s interview was with former Vanderbilt National Champion catcher and current Blue Jays prospect Philip Clarke.
Ryan Ruffing: What was your favorite SEC town or park outside of Vanderbilt?
Philip Clarke: My favorite town, even though my dad would kill me for saying this, is Athens, Georgia. My favorite atmosphere to play in is Texas A&M
RR: How crazy are they down there(A&M)?
PC: It’s pretty wild man, they’re loud, they love their team, it’s really fun to play at.
RR: What was the biggest adjustment from college to Minor League Baseball?
PC: I think like developing my own individual routine and not necessarily [following] the team routine that we had in college. I just need to prepare the best I can prepare to be ready for every game. That’s probably the biggest adjustment, the individuality part of it
RR: Is there more of a “managing” the pitching staff aspect in the minors than there was in college?
PC: I think it’s very important at both levels, but I think it’s a little bit different. When I’m calling every single game I have to know pitchers pitches and have a good relationship with them whereas in college I still have to know the pitchers pitches but most of those pitch calls, those were coming from coach Brown and so that was one less thing I had to worry about and more so just about forming good relationships with the pitchers.
RR: That’s pretty cool. How often in the minors do you play against players you also played against in college?
PC: I would say like almost every game. Maybe not college, but played against in summer ball, showcases, college, college summer ball and all that, I’d say every game there’s someone on the field I’ve played against before.
RR: Wow. Have you ever had a teammate that was a pitcher who you played against in college?
PC: Yeah tons.
RR: Are there any that may have had your number in college or you had theirs, that you don’t let each other forget about?
PC: No, I don’t think so. I mean I hit a double off Parker Carraci one time, he’s on our team, but I’m pretty sure he’s also struck me out a lot. I like to remind him about that. That’s about it, I can’t really think of anyone that I really struggled with or really hit well off of.
RR: I was kind of hoping you had something on Parker, he was our second interview.
PC: I’m pretty sure he’s gotten me out way more times than I’ve gotten hits off him. I think my freshman year I hit a double off of him. I like to talk about that.
RR: That’s when you tell him he’s supposed to get you out more than you get a hit off of you. The other day I watched the last out of the 2019 College World Series and it looked like you ended up on the bottom of the dog pile.
PC: Oh yeah.
RR: In the moment did you notice you were under the entire team or were you too excited to really care?
PC: No, I’ve always said winning championships is really fun like five minutes after winning, because as a catcher you’re always on the bottom of the dog pile. I won a state championship in high school and the championship in high school summer ball, so I’ve been under a few dog piles. None as important as that one, but none of them were fun. You go from really happy to terrified really fast and then once it’s all over you can celebrate. Dog piles, being at the bottom, it’s just the life of a catcher. It’s not very fun.
RR: That’s funny. So the dog pile is your least favorite part, but what was your favorite part of the celebration?
PC: I mean, I gotta say the dog pile comes with winning, so it’s a great part, it’s just you can’t breath. I would never not dog pile, like that’s part of it and you gotta know it’s coming. The dog pile is amazing, but being at the bottom of it is probably the worst spot to be. My favorite part was probably just after the game, just being in the locker room with the team, hanging out with the team that night, just being like ‘we did it’. Then flying back to Nashville, going out that night, just everything that comes after that. The next 48 hours are so rewarding because when you’re playing a sport in college, it’s every single day, no matter if you’re in season or out of season, you’re with those guys every day. Those next 48 hours are so rewarding to be able to relax and have fun. You’re the only team in the country that can say you did what you did, so it’s just a really cool experience.
RR: You had a lot of talent on that team
PC: Yeah. A lot.
RR: Looking back at the roster the number of major league draft picks on that roster was incredible.
PC: Oh yeah. It’s nuts.
RR: On that run was when Kumar Rocker decided he wanted to go on a rampage and just not let anybody get a hit. What was it like catching him and was there a difference in his stuff from earlier in the year to the period of dominance?
PC: I don’t think there was a difference in his stuff, I definitely think it was a difference in his mentality. He was a freshman, so it was just him getting comfortable with the team and comfortable with the program. You could tell he just wanted to go out there and win, like it just didn’t matter how he was gonna do it, he was gonna get the win. So no, I didn’t notice a change in his stuff much, but just the mentality was different and catching him was unbelievable with that mentality. It’s really cool to be catching someone that just goes right after hitters and knows what he wants to do.
RR: Now let’s do a few fun ones that we like to do at the end of these. Who was your favorite player growing up or the player you modeled you game after?
PC: Obviously I have to say Yadier Molina because that’s who I YouTubed the most. when I was learning how to catch I learned mostly on YouTube just watching guys do it. so like Yadi and JT Realmuto were two guys that I just always watched.
RR: I’d say those are good choices.
PC: Yeah but I grew up a Braves fan so before I was a catcher it was all about Chipper Jones for me. I just always watched Chipper.
RR: Ahhh, you’re killing me
RR: I’m a Mets fan.
PC: Ah, I’m sorry man, I grew up in Atlanta so I can’t do much about it.
RR: What’s your favorite baseball movie?
PC: Field of Dreams.
RR: Good choice. What’s a better feeling hitting a home run or throwing out a base stealer?
PC: Hitting a home run, I mean there’s really nothing like hitting a home run. I do love throwing people out though. I’d say hitting a home run just barely edges that one out.
RR: Who was your funniest college teammate?
PC: Either Walker Grisanti or Cooper Davis.
RR: is Cooper Playing somewhere? His name sounds familiar.
PC: No he’s not. He stayed all four years at Vandy and now he’s back home in Canada. He’s gonna be a pilot. I love that kid. He was my roommate.
RR: Have you ever been involved in a dugout or bullpen prank?
PC: No, not anything big, just mess with some guys, not any big pranks.