MLB legend Will Clark “thrilled” to be an advocate for autism community

former Major League Baseball player Will Clark
Photos courtesy of San Francisco Giants

When you think of former Major League Baseball player Will Clark, you think of his silky-smooth left-handed swing, clutch plays at first base and a flair for the dramatic that would have him remembered as one of the best players in the sport during his 15-year career.   

Clark broke into the Bigs in 1986 with the San Francisco Giants and finished the season fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. He would go on to play eight seasons with the franchise, winning a Gold Glove, two Silver Sluggers, the Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series in 1991 and be named to the NL All-Star team five times. He’d play for several other organizations before finishing his career with an impressive.303 batting average, 2,176 hits, 284 home runs and 1,205 RBI, but it was his fiery intensity in a Giants’ uniform that turned Will Clark into Will “the Thrill.” 

To commemorate his time in the Bay Area, the Giants retired Clark’s No. 22 jersey in front of a sellout crowd at Oracle Park on Saturday, July 30. Not only has this been a long time coming for the former first baseman, who retired from baseball in 2000, it’s an honor bestowed upon just 10 other players in the franchise’s storied 139-year history. 

I grew up in Louisiana, but I always say I was born and raised in the Major Leagues in San Francisco with the Giants. When you think of the history of the franchise and the great players who have worn that jersey, all I can say is ‘wow.’ This is my Hall of Fame, no question.

Clark currently serves as a special assistant for the Giants, but the crux of his time during his post playing days have been dedicated to Lisa, his wife of almost 30 years, daughter, Ella, 20, and son, Trey, 26. Trey was diagnosed with autism at 26 months which marked the beginning of a new chapter of Clark’s story  – one that would be more daunting than staring down the barrel of a Nolan Ryan fastball. But just like he did when he took the Hall of Famer deep in his first MLB at-bat, Clark dug his feet into the dirt and met the challenge head on.  

“We hardly knew anything about autism at the time of Trey’s diagnosis in 1998. The internet and computers weren’t as accessible as they are today, so information was scarce. I was with Texas at the time, and I flew home from Baltimore where we were playing. We immediately went out and bought a computer to start doing our own research. Thankfully, we got therapy started right away. Then, as luck would have it, I later signed with the Orioles and was able to get him enrolled into an early intervention program at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. It’s funny how life works sometimes.” 

Former Major League Baseball player Will Clark and his family
Photos courtesy of San Francisco Giants

Today, with the help of his family’s unconditional support and years of consistent services tailored to meet his needs, Trey is exceeding expectations at every turn. Will says Trey may never live on his own and still has some challenges with in-person social interaction, but he holds down a job, drives, hunts and fishes with his dad and his friends, even played high school baseball at the Dunham School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Of all his accomplishments through the years, Will said he’s most proud of the way his son has tirelessly worked to improve his communication skills. 

“Honestly, it’s tough to pinpoint one or two things that make me proud of Trey because there are a bunch, but recently I’ve seen him use Instagram and social media to express himself more. He takes his time and types out his thoughts very eloquently, which allows others to see how smart and thoughtful he is. My wife and I really push him to express himself both verbally and with his writing, so seeing his progress today is something special.” 

Because of his connection with autism, Clark and his family have become long-time supporters of Autism Speaks and the San Francisco and North Bay Walks. They try to attend the in-person events whenever they are in town, but it was finding his own voice as an advocate for his son and all people with autism that gave him a deeper understanding of the impact Autism Speaks has made on the autism community at large. The Clarks have been very open about Trey’s autism, which has inspired countless fans of Will, the baseball player, to get involved with a cause that is near and dear to the heart of Will, the father. 

Recently, TrueScripts Management Company made a $25,000 donation to Autism Speaks to commemorate Will’s illustrious career with the Giants and the journey of his son, Trey. The donation was made in recognition of one of the company’s long-time clinical pharmacists and big Will Clark fan, Joel Thompson. The retirement of Clark’s No. 22 in San Francisco is a story that will be remembered and retold by fans for years to come, but the story of the dedicated husband, father and autism advocate behind the bat, is a legacy of its own.

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