Former SLO Blues head coach Jamie Clark cites player personnel dispute in resignation

Former San Luis Obispo Blues manager Jamie Clark said the sudden resignation from his post last week was due to a player personnel dispute with the team’s front office.

Clark said in an interview with The Tribune that he wanted to “add transparency” to the events that led him to step down a little more than a month into his second season at the helm of the California Collegiate League team. He added that he owed an explanation to the people he’s close to and those who have supported him over the years.

Clark said the impasse stemmed from the release of five players early last week. According to Clark, he received approval June 25 from general manager Adam Stowe to release the group of players. Following their dismissal the following day, according to Clark, one player’s contract was reinstated last Monday by Stowe without his approval.

“The coaching staff and I met, and we were faced with a very tough decision on five different players,” Clark said. “And we all came into an agreement that those five players were to be released.

“So we met with ownership and gained ownership’s full support. It was reiterated to us at that time that ownership would never interfere with coach-player situations.”

Clark declined to provide specific reasons behind the release or what players were involved. He instead cited his top-three reasons why players at this level are typically let go: lack of performance, disciplinary or maturity issues.

“One player out of the five was placed back on the team without me being consulted first,” Clark said. “I gave them three opportunities for them to give me a valid reason, and (Stowe) couldn’t do it. Where I’m from, you’re only as good as your word. When you go back on your word, it’s impossible for me to live or work in that environment.

“I was given authority last year and this year that I and my coaching staff jointly, we are able to make any player contracting and release.”

Clark resigned following last Wednesday’s game. Former assistant Clay Cederquist was subsequently promoted to manager the next day, and Clay Villars was named assistant coach. Clark, a Tulare native who played college baseball at Fresno State, took over as head coach of the Blues last season after previously serving for four years on the SLO Blues non-profit Board of Directors.

“Jamie’s a great guy, and I will always love what he did for the Blues, and I’m sorry that he felt it necessary to part ways with us, especially in the middle of the season,” said general manager Adam Stowe, who declined to comment on the reasons behind Clark’s resignation. “But I’m going to respect the fact that he thought it was best for himself and his family and the Blues.

“I’ll love that man until the day I die.”

When asked what his next step was, Clark didn’t hesitate.

“I’ll stay in baseball in one way or another,” he said. “There’s a growing need to have programs like this in this county. The tradition of the San Luis Obispo Blues — 70 years — that’s unmatched. But there’s a growing need for coaches and teams, whether it be independent or a part of the CCL. There’s enough player base here.”

Clark clearly left a post and team he loved.

Clark said he sees the Blues as an organization that develops talent, but also adults. He realizes many of his players won’t advance to the next level, and said his goal as a coach was to ease the transition to life outside of baseball and teach lessons in the process.

“(The players) need more than ground balls and batting-practice time,” he said. “This is bigger than baseball. If somehow, some way that I can make a difference and an impact in their life that helps them deal with that moment or other life decisions. I know it might sound corny, but it’s real, because I was that player who played his last game.”

Clark added that some players haven’t seen their families in 10 months due to school and baseball nearly year-round.

“I didn’t think I ever skipped a beat,” Clark said. “On my drive home that night I was thinking, ‘What new beginning is there? What does the next chapter look like?’ I love baseball too much. I love the players too much to stop.”

That love appears to be mutual. When Clark informed the team of the news following last Wednesday’s game, each player gave a brief testimony about how he impacted them.

“It was in ways I had no idea,” Clark said.

Clark shared a story of one player’s tribute. He brought out his phone and asked Clark if he remembered a text he had sent him eight months ago. Clark said he didn’t recall the text, but that the player said he had read it every day since.

“I felt stronger about that when I read it than I did when I sent it,” Clark said. “I’ve never seen a team gel like this team has, it’s been special to be a part of.”

Staff reporter Lucas Clark contributed to this report.