Freshman Casper Clark and the Columbus North baseball team are one win away from competing for a state title.
Sharing that moment with his younger brother Calvin, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2014, would be a dream come true for Casper.
“If I can’t be on a stage like that with him on the field with me, I definitely want him to be able to see it,” Casper said. “It helps me a lot to be like, ‘Hey, he’s sitting right there. I want to do something great and let him see it.'”
Casper and Calvin grew up playing multiple sports together from basketball to football, but baseball was their specialty, with Casper on the mound and Calvin catching at home plate. Calvin’s head injury while playing in a PAAL football game has altered the lives of both the Clark brothers who are just two years apart in age. Calvin stayed in a coma for about three weeks after the accident, and doctors were unsure if he would ever walk or talk again.
Calvin has more than surpassed his recovering expectations and is back to attending school half days in Jennings County. He regularly attends speech and occupational therapy in Columbus, but being an athlete is no longer in his future. Watching his brother suffer early on was hard for Casper in the beginning, he said, and now, it has shaped the way he views things in life, especially baseball.
“I find myself thinking about being able to play a lot now,” Casper said. “Especially because he was the catcher, and I was the pitcher, that’s a big deal. So now, I’m always thankful that I have the opportunity to come out here and play.”
Calvin remains close with his younger brother and spends as much time with him as he can, said their father, Casey Clark. Calvin is still working on getting more control of the right side of his body, and Casper encourages Calvin to play video games with him to practice using his right hand. Casper worked closely with Calvin on his walking ability when Calvin first returned home from the hospital, and Casey said the situation has matured Casper an unbelievable amount.
“It sucks because I think he lost a lot of his childhood through this,” Casey said. “He lost a lot of his innocence. He had to be a big boy way quicker than I ever wanted him to have to. It’s hard to see him go through it, but I think he gets it more than he ever did before.”
North coach Ben McDaniel also sees the maturity in Casper and has used that maturity to help get points across to his other players at times. McDaniel mentions an A.P.E. acronym when referring to the three thingshis players can control — attitude, perspective and effort.
The hardest concept for the team to grasp is perspective, which is why he has called on Casper to share his perspective on life with the team a couple of times throughout the season. Casper is 5-1 with an 0.88 ERA in 32 innings, but his attitude and demeanor does things for the team that don’t show up on a stat sheet. McDaniel said Casper has the perfect mentality for a pitcher because he doesn’t let the negative things get to him too much.
“When we’re looking for examples of perspective, Casper is a good one to talk to because he sees it every day,” McDaniel said. “He knows what type of future his brother had before the injury, so he’s reminded of perspective on a daily basis. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes we ask Casper to relay that to the team to just try to get them to wrap their heads around that this is still a game. You get to play a game, and you’re capable and able to play a game on a daily basis.”
Casper continues to keep a positive perspective on the field and with his brother, reminding himself that Calvin could have died, but instead, he lived and continued to get better. He reminisced on the moment when Calvin first lifted his left arm a few weeks after waking up from his coma and remembers the smile on Calvin’s face. The smile was his favorite part.
Casper witnessed that same smile when he won a Calvin Strong tournament in Calvin’s honor in North Vernon shortly after Calvin was released from the hospital. Casper and Calvin were all smiles after the game while they posed for pictures.
Being able to share moments like that are what gives Casper the confidence to play well during games. When Casper was standing at the mound during the sectional, he found inspiration by looking over and seeing his brother in the stands cheering him on. He will try to use that confidence and inspiration on Saturday when the Bull Dogs face Cathedral in the semistate at Plainfield.
“It’s all about a confidence thing with me and (Calvin),” Casper said. “He has confidence in me at all times because he says I’m like his hero and best friend. That’s a big deal to me. So anytime I have success, I’m looking at him as a big confidence booster because he feels it, too. Going to state or even wining state would be huge for both of us.”
What: Baseball semistate
Who: Columbus North (17-12) vs. Cathedral (27-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Plainfield High School
Advancement: Winner will play for the Class 4A state championship June 16 or 17 at Victory Field in Indianapolis.