In sports, growing up in the game can be helpful. Being raised in a clubhouse can prepare the children of major leaguers for a future in the game. Sure, not every kid of a major leaguer will make it or even want to play the game, but for those that do, they have an advantage. Their bloodline gives them a leg up and helps prepare them for a life in baseball. Clubhouse culture shock is reduced. The Padres currently have two players whose fathers played the game. One is on the major league roster, Will Venable, and the other is on the minor league roster, Matt Clark.
Venable’s father, Max, played 12 years as a light hitting outfielder. Clark’s father, Terry, fought his way through six major league seasons as a pitcher.
Max Venable was born in June 6, 1957. He was drafted out of high school in the third round of the 1976 amateur draft. After three seasons in the minors, Max made his major league debut on April 8, 1979. He had his best season in 1985. He was worth 1 WAR that year and hit .289/.315/.422. He was never worth more than 0.8 WAR in a single year outside that 1985 season with the Reds.*
*I’ve grown to hate using this phrasing. Saying a player wasn’t worth something is so degrading to what they did in their career. Unfortunately, there’s not really a better way to say it. He didn’t account for more than 1 WAR? Maybe that’s better.
Max had a career in which he can say he played in three different decades. He retired in 1991 with a final triple-slash of .241/.302/.345. But perhaps his most amazing contribution are his sons. Winston Venable is a pro football player. Will Venable…well, you know.
Matt Clark’s dad is a little different. He played a completely different position, but he had some success.
Enough to play six major league seasons at least. Terry Clark was 10-23 in his major league career. He carried a 5.54 ERA, and he struck out very few batters – just 4.2 per nine innings to be exact. Terry pitched in 92 games and started 27 of them. In his rookie season, Clark had two complete games and one shutout. Those would be the only complete games and only shutout of his career. Clark had just two seasons with a positive WAR, and he finished his career with a -1.0 WAR. But the fact is, he pitched six years in the majors – a feat the majority of the world will never be able to say they’ve done.
While Max Venable and Terry Clark surely hope for more success for their children, their careers did something endless batting practice sessions and pop fly drills can’t do. Their careers gave the boys a glimpse at what it’s like to be a major league player. They were able, after being drafted, to step into a clubhouse and know what to expect. This glimpse as children provided the foundation that would help them acclimate themselves to a career in baseball. It’s a factor not often weighed. Most think a player’s kid just has natural talent and that’s the benefit. The truth is, players’ kids have an understanding of the inner workings of baseball. More so than those first exposed after high school or college.
Will Venable has shown flashes of potential greatness, and he hopes this season will be his breakout year. Matt Clark is a very talented 1b/LF and has had an incredible spring. His only concern right now is finding a spot to play. He could be major league ready very soon but without a position. But despite the challenges facing both these players, they are – for the most part – better equipped to handle them. Thanks to their baseball bloodlines, Will and Matt have known what to expect for a long time.