The Clark twins, Travis and Tyler, are described by Hammond baseball coach Mike Lerner as "dramatically" different from each other in personality, but quite similar in nature when it comes to baseball.
"Travis is more boisterous, more vocal," says Lerner, "while Tyler is more reserved. But they both play the game with the same intensity and dedication."
Tyler, a first baseman, is batting .353, with two doubles and two home runs, and has yet to strike out. Travis, a right-handed pitcher, is hitting .500, with four doubles, four home runs and is 2-0 on the mound with 16 strikeouts in 10 innings. He has a 3.7 ERA, a number Lerner expects to improve as the season goes on.
Lerner, who has known the twins since they were in the eighth grade, says baseball is in their blood.
"They eat, sleep and breathe baseball," he says.
The 17-year-old juniors carry grade point averages of 3.14 (Travis) and 3.31 (Tyler) and anticipate signing with a college program by midsummer.
When did you two start playing baseball?
Travis: Probably when we were born.
Tyler: It was probably the first thing we ever did. Probably, we appeared and the first thing we did was say, 'baseball.'
Travis: We've played organized baseball since we were 5, I think.
Tyler: Yes, that's right.
Did your dad play?
Travis: Yes, Dad played in high school and then slow pitch from then on.
Tyler: Dad coached us and so did our older brother, Bryan, when we were little.
Travis: But since we were about 8 or 9, our mom has taken us to all our tournaments and all our practices. She has had a lot to do with keeping us in baseball.
Travis: I am, by nine minutes.
What does it mean to be the older brother?
Travis: I'm the more responsible one.
Travis: You know I am. Remember the team's new jerseys?
Tyler: He thinks it's cool to keep stuff from me. ...
Did you get back at your brother?
Tyler: Oh, yeah. Before a recent practice, infielders were hitting to the outfielders, and coach Lerner told us if we hit the bucket [on the edge of the grass in center field] we could make anyone on the team we wanted do 10 push-ups. Hit the bucket. Made Travis do 10. Got 'em.
Travis, do you think your brother is just like you?
Travis: He wishes.
Travis: No. I think when you're a twin you kind of split off and are different in a lot of things and similar in a lot of things. But for the most part, you do a lot of things differently because you don't want to be the same anymore when you get older. Like he's really weird, and I'm really cool.
Tyler: (laughs) Yeah, but on the diamond we're in sync.
Travis: I think we think the same stuff when we're playing baseball.
Do you play any other sports?
Tyler: I'm going to play golf next year.
Travis: Like Tiger Woods. Yeah, we'll call you Tiger Clark, that sounds almost like Tiger Woods. We both played football and basketball as freshmen.
Tyler, you're a first baseman, and Travis, you're a pitcher. How did that happen?
Travis: From a young age he loved to catch, and we'd be in the backyard and I'd be pitching to him. He loved catching, and I just kept practicing my pitching, nonstop.
Tyler, you loved catching? How did you wind up being a first baseman?
Tyler: Coach's decision. Freshman year, I was at third because that's where they needed me. Last year, I was the catcher. This year, Coach needed me at first base. Whatever. I play every position. I don't care at all. If he told me to sit [on] the bench, I'd love it. It'd be fun. Whatever the team needs.
It sounds like you two have all the bases covered. Are you the reason your team is winning [7-0] this season?
Travis: No. It takes a lot of hard work from all of us. Everyone has to be good. Everyone challenges each other. Everyone hits the ball hard, and every time someone hits the ball hard you feed off it.
Tyler: And on the weekend, if you call one of us, you can get all of us. We're always together. During the winter we would go to our school's basketball team's games to give them our full support. We ran the student section. Now, we have barbecues together.
Travis: This is everyone's team. Everyone stands up for each other.
Your coach told me when you came to Hammond you already knew all the Hammond baseball history. What are some of the facts you know about Hammond baseball?
Travis: A lot. The state home run record is held by a Hammond player. The state walk record.
Tyler: The state RBI record, career hits. They're all held by Hammond.
Travis: They were set by Jason Maxey. He and Brian Brewer, who holds the state home run record for a single season at 13, have come out to help us a couple times. You can look over there at the All-America banner on the [gym] wall. Maxey is like seventh from the bottom on the list. He's the one that got our attitude going to the right way. He taught us the team approach - to just get up there and be angry at the ball and whack it hard.
You two seem like pretty easygoing guys. How difficult is it to get angry at a baseball?
Tyler: You are a completely different person on the diamond. You're not thinking about how your day has been. You just take your mind off everything and just play ball. It's paradise.