Reed Clark heard the number, a velocity he’d only seen professional baseball pitchers reach on television, and was stunned into a decision.
That summer before the left-handed pitcher began his high school career at Forsyth Central, he was at a tryout for Team Elite, a summer travel team. His fastball sat at 81-82 miles per hour. His fastest that summer was 84.
But a Team Elite coach came up to Clark and told him he had "a chance to be something special," that he could see Clark throwing 90-93 miles per hour after his senior year at Central, the speed that catches the attention of Division I college coaches and professional scouts.
"I just decided at that point that that was what I was going to do," Clark said. "I was going to devote all my time, energy and work into achieving that."
It set Clark on a path that led to this past Wednesday, his 18th birthday, when he signed a national letter of intent to Western Carolina whom he verbally committed to in July.
The Bulldogs’ senior joins a surging Catamounts program that went 37-18 this past season and won their second consecutive Southern Conference regular season title.
He grew to love Western Carolina during the recruiting process for its mountainous campus in Cullowhee, N.C., and the "down to earth, great people" he met there. On his official visit two weeks ago, he hung out with Catamounts catcher Danny Bermudez, a former Central standout. He slept at the dorm of Catamounts pitcher Dylan Biumi, a former Lambert standout.
"The thing that just clicked for me was the people around there reminded me of the people around here, the people I’ve grown up around," Clark said.
Clark has been focused all summer and fall on building off his junior season in which he went 3-3 with a 3.58 ERA in 43 innings, striking out 42 and walking 21 in 10 appearances.
But he spent Wednesday in a classroom filled with coaches, family, friends and school administrators. He wore a white collared shirt and a purple and gold bow tie, for he was celebrating a college baseball career’s first step.
And he ate cake because he was celebrating a milestone birthday.
"I’m definitely going to remember it forever," Clark said. "Two big events on the same day."