SEATTLE -- When Zach Clark first got the life-altering phone call, he didn't pick up. It was around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday when the 29-year-old noticed the missed call from director of player development Brian Graham and learned the news: after eight years in the Minor Leagues, Clark was headed to join the Orioles in Seattle.
"I just freaked out kind of," Clark, standing in the Orioles clubhouse Tuesday night, said of his initial reaction from Norfolk, Va. "Just walked around in a circle. Didn't know what I was doing.
"It's unreal. It still hasn't sunk in yet. I'm still trying to figure it out, like emotions will just roll through me and then, I'm like, 'Ah, it's just baseball'. This is what I've been working for. And then I am traveling to Seattle. And it hits me again and I go through it again. It hasn't sunk in yet. It's real but I don't know. It means a lot."
Clark, who will be 30 in July, is an incredible story of perseverance. A non-drafted free agent out of UMBC in 2006, Clark was added to the 40-man roster this winter after a solid 2012 put him on the organization's radar. The Newark, Del. native, who was a 27-year-old in Double-A Bowie to start '11, said there was never a moment when he thought of hanging it up.
"Because I wanted it," Clark said. "I never felt like I couldn't do it. So, if I felt like that maybe I'd have to re-evaluate. But I felt like it was something that was attainable."
Clark was recalled to be part of the Orioles' bullpen and he will serve as one of the team's long men in the bullpen given that he was part of Norfolk's rotation. He went 1-2 with a 4.56 ERA in five Triple-A games this season, allowing 30 hits and seven walks with 20 strikeouts over 25 2/3 innings. Asked how it will feel to make his Major League debut, Clark wasn't worried.
"I'm sure I'll be nervous and all that stuff," he said, "But it's weird because once you get on the field, it's baseball. That's the part I know the best. The other stuff around it is what's different."
The dream became reality in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 8-3 loss when Clark entered after starter Wei-Yin Chen. After a scoreless fifth, which included a strikeout of Jesus Montero, Clark allowed three runs in the sixth and exited in favor of Rule-5 Draft pick T.J. McFarland.
With several Minor League teammates Tweeting their support, Clark threw 36 pitches, 20 strikes.
"It was cool," Clark said after his debut. "It was a little disappointing. I wish I could have done better. But it was still cool to be out there and have that opportunity. It was everything, just amped up. I don't even remember throwing the pitches in the 'pen. But getting out there was cool."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.