Will Clark is the standard of excellence when it comes to Mississippi State baseball. That is, until Will Bednar's 2021 season.
Before becoming a star for the Giants, Clark formed one of the greatest college duos ever with Rafael Palmeiro and won the 1985 Golden Spikes Award as the best player in college baseball, ahead of San Francisco drafting him with the No. 2 pick that same year.
The Giants on Sunday selected Bednar, a right-handed pitcher, with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft after he led Mississippi State to its first national championship in any sport, and was named the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series.
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He's now ready to follow Clark's path to San Francisco, and is elated to be drafted by the same franchise as The Thrill.
"I've gotten to meet him and talk to him a few times," Bednar told Giants media on Sunday. "He's been around our clubhouse a little bit this past year. It's really cool to be going to the Giants, especially when the other guy from Mississippi State has gone there and been a legend."
Bednar laughed at the notion Clark might have played a part in the Giants drafting him, but it's easy imagining Clark smiling at his former team picking another Bulldog.
The Giants' top pick called the atmosphere "electric" at his family's house when his name was called. What made it even better was when his brother, David, entered the party.
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David Bednar, Will's older brother, is a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who just finished a series against the New York Mets. He barely missed watching Will get his name called, and Will couldn't wait for David to get inside to embrace and celebrate with his older brother.
"He got home like five minutes after the pick, so it was really cool to meet him in the front yard," Bednar said. "It was really cool to have him get home that soon."
What Will has learned from his older brother is to never get too high and never get too low. He has heard the stories of the grind, riding the bus through unknown towns in the minor leagues, the unmatched joy of making your major league debut but knowing you must prove yourself every single day.
That's the exact mindset Bednar took with him the day he stepped on the Mississippi State campus, and the same one he used on the brightest stage.
Bednar had a 1.76 ERA in four appearances (one start) during the shortened COVID-19 season last year, and focused on improving his fastball and slider this season before becoming the fastest riser in the draft thanks to his brilliance on the mound in the College World Series. He went 9-1 with a 3.12 ERA this season and struck out 139 batters in 92 1/3 innings. It was his final 18 1/3 innings that mattered most, though.
Leading Mississippi State to two wins over Texas, and another in the championship best-of-three series against Vanderbilt, Bednar allowed only three earned runs and five hits while striking out 26 batters and walking six in that three-game span.
"I think the one thing that really helped me in Omaha was just treating each outing like it was just any other outing," Bednar said. "Really at the end of the day, that's all it is. It's the same stuff I've been doing since I was young. It's the same game I've been playing. Obviously it's on a bigger stage, but I just focus on the batter and take it one pitch at a time.
"I think just moving through pro ball, obviously some of the stages are going to be a lot smaller, but still just treat it the same way and attacking guys the same way. Treating it one pitch at a time I think is gonna really help me out."
Even through a laptop, it was clear that Bednar has this sense of calm with the intensity that every ace needs. Just look at his own self-scouting report. Nowhere does it mention a pitch. Mentality always comes first.
"I'm a huge competitor," Bednar said without hesitation. "I'm gonna compete wherever I go, and I'm gonna work my tail off to be the best that I can be whenever I go."
That brings us back to Clark. The swagger-filled first baseman laughed at the idea that a pitcher could ever get him out. And he backed it up, especially with the spotlight on him.
Just four years after the Giants made him their top pick, Clark was named the 1989 NLCS MVP, leading the Giants to their first World Series since 1962. He never did win a championship at the college or pro level, though.
Looking ahead four years from now, how will Bednar best Clark this time? Only time will tell. The Giants love the bite in their latest Bulldog, and he already can't wait to get back to work.
"I'm really excited to take this next step in my baseball career, and I'm really excited to work with the Giants and continue to get better," Bednar said.