Tony Clark, for 15 years a rangy and reliable first baseman for six big league teams, was named Tuesday as the next executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, replacing the widely respected Michael Weiner, who died last month.
Clark, 41, will be the first former player to lead what is widely considered to be the strongest players’ union in professional sports. He first came to work for the MLBPA as director of player relations in 2010, a year after he retired. Last July, he was promoted to deputy executive director, and he has been serving as the acting director since Weiner’s death on Nov. 21 following a 15-month battle with brain cancer.
“We find ourselves in a place where we, in large part, wish we hadn’t, wish we wouldn’t be,” Clark said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. He called Weiner, the level-headed attorney who had served the union for 25 years, a “mentor,” and pledged to adhere to the “same vision: that we are going to continue moving along the path of supporting and advancing players’ rights going forward.”
Clark, who hit 251 career home runs and was an all-star with Detroit in 2001, was elected by a unanimous vote of the union’s executive board, which is meeting in La Jolla, Calif. He still must be approved by a vote of the entire membership, but that is expected to be a formality.
“At the end of the day, Tony is somebody who has clearly distinguished himself as a leader with the players,” said Kansas City pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, a member of the executive board. His appointment “really doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to many of us who know him. We are looking forward to what he provides us — his leadership, his vision.”
The men who have served as the face of the union for the past 30 years — Donald Fehr and Weiner — were lawyers by trade. Clark, who played at San Diego State, said he would rely on strong legal advice when it comes to language and logistics in collective bargaining. But he said he combines traits from Fehr, Weiner and former union head Marvin Miller, and that his perspective as a former player could be valuable.
“With me having been on the field, with any of the number of challenges we face, I lend a direct experience to the conversation,” Clark said.
The current collective bargaining agreement between players and ownership runs through 2016.