By David Krueger Herald Writer
John Clark missed four games earlier this year for the Marysville Getchell baseball team.
But his coach wasn’t upset about it. He had a good excuse.
Clark, a sophomore right fielder/first baseman, was on a nine-day trip to Haiti to help out at a children’s home in Williamson, a small village about an hour north of Port-au-Prince, the island country’s capital. Clark was part of a group that included his mother, father, brother and a friend.
“It’s a really life-changing experience to see such a different lifestyle than the one we have here” in the U.S.), Clark said. “It’s pretty crazy. The people pretty much make due with basically nothing and they’re the happiest people alive. It really makes you feel thankful for all the blessings we have here.”
Clark went with a program called “Lifting Up Haiti,” which is a non-profit venture based in Bellingham that works on “projects that focus on sustainability and foster independence and promote dignity,” according to the mission statement on the group’s website.
Carole Clark, John’s mother, is on the board of directors and recruited her family to go with her to Haiti. A nurse practitioner at the Everett Clinic, she has been going to the island nation each of the last three years.
She has taken her daughter Rachel in the past, and John has gone before. This year, John, his father Dale, his brother Randy and friend Patrick Berry, who attends Lakewood High School, went along. Together they worked building a fence around property that Lifting Up Haiti purchased for a children’s home in Williamson.
While there, the group also worked with the kids. Carole Clark thought this was her son John’s favorite part of the trip.
“I think they’re a little attached to some of the kids,” Carole Clark said. “The kids are cute and their fun. The kids at the orphanage really love John.”
Carole Clark says the village where they were in Haiti wasn’t dangerous at all. The residents are thankful of the American involvement, she said. While the Clark group was there, a University of Washington dental team arrived to serve the Haitian community. Lifting Up Haiti also helps supply basic medical healthcare there as well.
Working in the children’s home, which has 17-20 children depending on the time, really makes him thankful for everything he has in his life back home, including his Chargers’ teammates, John Clark said.
“There’s really no comparison. We’re really blessed here,” Clark said. “You don’t really realize it till you see what other people are living with. It’s great to have with my friends and my teammates.”
The two-year varsity starter’s presence was missed by his team when he was in Haiti. The Chargers went 1-3 in the four games they played without their No. 3 hitter, but head coach Gerry Klep understands there are higher priorities in life than baseball.
“Obviously for the wins and losses part of the game and what he provides to the team we missed him greatly, but as we build our program there’s more important things,” Klep said. “Those type of things the kids are doing definitely feed into what we provide in the program.”
Clark missed baseball while working in Haiti, and before he left for the country, he stayed on the diamond as long as he possibly could.
“It was kind of abrupt. I left in the third inning of a game (against Stanwood on March 26),” Clark said. “I just wanted to play as much as I could before I was gone. I missed baseball a lot. When we had down time, which wasn’t very often, I’d think about it.”
It was the second straight year Clark traveled to Haiti and missed baseball games. Last year, he was gone for a school milestone: the Chargers’ lone win of the season, a 3-2 victory over Oak Harbor on March 30.
“We’ve improved a lot since last year,” Clark said. “We’ve been working really hard. It’s really showing and it’s really paying off.”
The Chargers are 5-9 in league and 6-10 overall going into today’s home game against Everett.
Clark is a big reason for Marysville Getchell’s improvement, Klep said.
“He bats third in our lineup. He solidifies our outfield. He gives us a threat that we don’t have when he’s not here,” Klep said. “It’s much easier to write a lineup when he’s around.”
Clark’s leadership is just as important as his baseball skills on a team focused on making the district baseball playoffs in just the second year of the program, Klep said. Marysville Getchell is one game out of the playoffs with three league games to go.
“He’s our vocal leader. He’s already established,” Klep said. “He’s 6-4, 220. He’s a big guy. He plays tight end on the football team. He’s our vocal leader. He really is a good kid. He really is.”
“I think John’s a great role model for other young men, how he dedicates time to different avenues in life,” Klep added. “He’s a busy guy. He plays two sports, gets some extracurricular (activities) done and he’s a model student.”