WHERE ARE THEY NOW?

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Rob Clark

2014-02-03T18:00:00Z 2014-02-03T20:19:14Z WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Rob ClarkMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
February 03, 2014 6:00 pm  • 

Former Gavit star pitcher Rob Clark has a lot of sports memories in his career.

He played in a Little League World Series, an IHSAA semistate, college baseball at Southern Illinois and minor-league baseball. He won an Oklahoma Class 5A state baseball title as a coach, and is also in the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame.

The 1978 Gavit grad, who was known as Robbie Clark, has a more recent non-sports experience that sticks with the Moore, Okla., resident.

Clark is a teacher at Moore High School and recalls the afternoon of May 20, 2013 when an EF5 tornado devastated the community, killing 25 people and injuring 377 others.

Rob and his wife, Penny, had left Moore High School early because they had the last hour free and they wanted to make sure their dogs were safe and check on family.

"We all knew it was coming, in fact, the school had to decide whether or not to release (students)," Clark said. "Their concern was the latch-key kids. They would be home alone in this."

Clark, Penny, niece Savannah, who lives with the Clarks, and their four dogs were in a shelter under his garage. "Sort of like those old bomb shelters from the '50s and '60s," he said.

"We were in there with the radio on and according to reports, it was supposed to hit our neighborhood," Clark said. "Somehow, it just missed us. We were down there and you could hear things blowing around and we wondered if our house would still be there. We were just lucky."

He said everyone who could helped, including his family.

"That could have been us — we know people who lost everything. Their houses, all that was left was a slab," Clark said. "We could have been the ones needing bottled water, food."

He remembers driving his truck in what was left of the town with Penny and Savannah in the back of it passing out food and water to the families that were sifting through the rubble for their belongings.

"You had no idea where you were at because what were once landmarks, were gone," he said. "I drove to what was 'ground zero' and it was devastating. No street signs. A 7-Eleven, just a slab where some people were killed when they sought refuge in there during the tornado."

Clark is the computer and business department chair at Moore High School. He won a state title at rival Westmoore High School in 1994.

He was standout pitcher for Gavit, leading the Gladiators to a 1977 semistate berth before falling to LaPorte. The 1978 team lost to Morton at Block Stadium in a regional game. He said he had great coaches in Tom Kujawa (baseball), Bob Bradtke (basketball) and John Quinn (football). Plus Itch Jones in baseball at Southern Illinois.

"All pushed you to get better and they worked hard themselves in preparing us," Clark said. "Coach Kujawa, he really got the most out of me. I remember he always told us the batting cage was open if we wanted to come and hit during lunch hour. I am so happy he is going into the (Hammond sports) hall of fame."

Clark said the memories of the 1972 Hammond Edison Little League team are as if they happened yesterday. He pitched in the semifinals as Edison beat Puerto Rico 10-7. Taiwan beat Edison 6-0 for the title.

"I remember that was the first time I ever was on an airplane and fans asking us for our autographs," Clark said. "We were 12 years old and to play in front of that many people was great.

"I remember we came back and the Cubs had us up to Wrigley Field and we met Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Glenn Beckert and Don Kessinger. Talk about a neat experience."

He said he enjoyed his stints with the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros organizations.

"I knew it was time to call it quits because I knew I wasn't going to make it to the majors," Clark said. "It was a great time, but you know when it is time to move on."

To submit a "Where Are They Now?" idea, contact Mike Nieto at mike.nieto@nwi.com or (219) 933-3232.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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