McKenzie Clark's Unfathomable Pro Debut

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2024 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Savanna Collins
Jun 19, 2024

On AUOpening Day, McKenzie Clark sat in the dugout, listening to her teammates chit-chat. She looked around at the group.

“I remember watching you on TV, I remember watching you on TV. I actually remember modeling my game after you. I saw you play at the World Series,” she thought to herself.

Clark waited in her Gold team jersey. From beneath her reflective orange and purple Nike sunglasses, her signature cross eyeblack tapered down from her cheek to her jawline.

Then it dawned on her: “They’re going to call my name.”

Over the stadium speakers, the public address announcer called out, “And now make some noise for the rookies! At outfield… McKenzie Clark!”

Out of the dugout she bounced, a huge grin spreading across her face.

“This is amazing,” Clark said, talking about the moment. “Not anything I could have ever wished for or dreamt of.”

If you had told the rookie five years ago she would be a pro softball player, she would have laughed in your face. She still does – almost every time Clark is asked about making her pro debut, becoming a captain, or now being one of the top performers of the season she chuckles, almost out of bewilderment.

Clark had planned on traveling to Wichita but only to visit her friends who were signed to play in the season, not participate herself. One of her coaches at Clemson asked to send Clark’s phone number to Sam Fischer, the chairperson of the Athletes Unlimited Pro Softball Player Executive Committee, who helps build the roster. Clark wasn’t sure.

“I don’t know if it’s for me, I’m officially a NARP (non-athletic regular person) now,” she told her coach. “Just graduated, we just finished regionals… I don’t know.”

What Clark also didn’t know is that she was far from that.

Five days after talking to Fischer and signing her contract, Clark reported to AUX. Seven days later she ran out of the dugout and stepped onto the dirt as a pro. Two days after her debut, she hit her first professional home run – a grand slam to boot.

Clark wowed in the opening series, picking up stat and MVP points for her versatile offense and spectacular defense. It catapulted her up the leaderboard and she became a captain for Series Tw0.

Whether flinging herself through the air for flyballs or trotting around the bases, Clark hasn’t looked nervous.

“No, I’m a little delusional,” she laughed. “I mean, what an incredible stage to be [on] out here just throwing and hitting and catching a yellow ball with some of the best of the best. I can’t be anything more than grateful.”

Clark seems to have a knack for being right on time to where she’s meant to be. She played travel softball with the Tampa Mustangs and was one of the last of her team to sign to a college program. She was a sophomore and still unsure until Clemson came along.

She joined the fledgling program in just its second year in history and was a part of establishing what it means to be a Clemson Tiger softball player.

“I just came from a really big family and I can’t wait to bring in the aspects of the game that I learned from there and bring it here,” Clark said.

She holds Clemson career records in triples (13), runs scored (198), stolen bases (46), hit by pitches (29), and sac flies (11), as well as a handful of single-season records.

Clark’s passion, which she credits to flourishing with her Clemson family, doesn’t go unnoticed – like how she pumped her fist and screamed back to her dugout across the field after a triple.

For a moment, Clark lost that. Her zeal for the game was replaced by a heaviness of all the things she had to do. Perform, show up, do well.

“I was taking it more as a job,” Clark explained. “I took the game very seriously and at some part of my life I found out that the joy and the love for the game was being stripped away from me.”

During her junior year at Clemson, she stepped back and had some tough conversations with herself.

“You’ve been playing this game since you were four years old. It’s supposed to be fun with some of your best friends… people that you met and now you get to have a friendship for a lifetime. It’s just a game. Have fun with it, be passionate, and you’re supposed to love what you do.”

That’s why she’s the McKenzie Clark fans see on the field now.

So far, Clark has led her team to a 2-1 record with one game left in Series Two on Wednesday night. She’s third overall in the league standings.

When Clark joined the AU Pro Softball, her contract only included the AUseason. Now, she will also compete in the Championship season in Rosemont, Illinois later this summer after signing a contract extension.

“Now I get to come out here with so much freedom and just float around, be a grass fairy for a little bit,” she smiled. “I can’t be anything other than extremely happy to be here.”


Savanna Collins is the Senior Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.

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