Ben Komonosky was a catcher at the NCAA Division I level and now he coaches them. Plenty of times, he has been asked to “be a wall” behind the plate. Komonosky, who played at the University of Evansville and is in his first year as a volunteer assistant at Indiana State University (also a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), says that’s the wrong mental picture. The idea is to stop the flying object and keep it in front of you. “Be a pillow,” says Komonosky. “Walls are bouncy and we don’t like that. “It’s like being a goalie in hockey. You don’t want pucks bouncing off you.” Ben is the son of Ward and Cindy Komonosky. Ward Komonosky played goaltender for the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Regina Blue Pats, Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders and Atlantic Coast Hockey League’s New York Slapshots. Ward Komonosky won 30 games and Prince Albert took the Memorial Cup in 1985. New York was coached by Dave Schultz, who helped the “Broad Street Bullies” Philadelphia Flyers win the Stanley Cup in 1974 and 1975. Besides leading drills for ISU catchers (receiving, blocking and throwing form various angles) for Sycamores head coach Mitch Hannahs, Ben Komonosky also coordinates camps. There was an instructional/showcase event in October and another is scheduled for January. Komonosky, who turned 25 in September, says he has settled in to living in Terre Haute, Ind. “There are a lot of friendly people,” says Komonosky, who is from Regina, Sask., where he played baseball, football, basketball and volleyball at Vauxhall High School in Alberta. He was with the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball as a senior in 2015. He spent the fall semester at Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. “It was not the right fit and I went back home (to Canada) for a bit,” says Komonosky. “That spring I took time off. I was falling out of love with baseball. “But then I felt I was missing something in my life and started training again.” The backstop landed at North Iowa Area Community College, where he played for Trojans head coach Travis Hergert in 2017 and 2018. “It was a great two years there,” says Komonosky. “I needed time to grow into the player I needed to be. I was able to get stronger and better in every part of the game.” Though North Iowa — based in Mason City — was not as hard-nosed a some junior college programs, Komonosky understands what it means to be a “JUCO Bandit.” “The majority of (junior colleges) are blue collar with a bunch of grinders,” says Komonosky, who notes the emphasis on development. “Half of their job is sending guys on to the next level.” Komonosky played in 111 games for NIACC in 2017 and 2018 and hit .282 with 11 home runs and 76 runs batted in. Jake Mahon, then an Evansville assistant coach, saw Komonosky at a North Iowa scrimmage and invited him to visit to UE campus. He went on to play in 88 games (81 starts) for the Wes Carroll-coached Purple Aces from 2019 to 2021 and graduated with a degree in Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Sports Management. “I knew I wanted to stay around the game when my playing days were done,” says Komonosky, who spent the summer after graduating scouting for Perfect Game in Florida. In 2021-22, Komonosky was on the Jimmy Brenneman-led coaching staff at Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill. The Bobcats are a National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division I program. “I loved it there,” says Komonosky. “It was really good baseball. Junior college is a really good route for a lot of guys. There’s extra development.” Komonosky specialized working with Frontier catchers while also assisting the hitters, recruiting, and strength and conditioning. In the summer of 2022, Komonosky served as manager of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s Michigan Monarchs. The team, based in Adrian, Mich., won the North Division and advanced to the playoffs and Komonosky was selected as GLSCL Manager of the Year. Komonosky played for the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Swift Current 57s in 2018 and the WCBL’s Regina Red Sox in 2019. He did not play in the COVID-19 summer of 2020. He was recently named as Regina Red Sox manager for the summer of 2023. Komonosky has been an assistant coach at 2SK Performance and with the Inside Pitch Baseball Academy — both in Regina. Ben’s family athletic roots in Indiana precede him. Grandfather Glenn Young, who went to Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Ill., played football at Purdue University and was a defensive back for the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers (1956).
After seeing Clark play at Comiskey Park, Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck showed interest in signing the pitcher.
Clark was the final owner of the franchise (1983-88) that traces its origins back to the Negro Leagues. He followed in the footsteps of Clowns owners Syd Pollock, Ed Hamman and George Long. Hamman sold the team to Long of Muscatine, Iowa, in 1972. Long sold the team to Clark and Sal Tombasco of Corning in 1983.
Clark’s awards are numerous. He received the National Giant Steps Award for his coaching, and was honored at the White House by President Bill Clinton. He won the National Heroes of Sports Award in 1999 and the Bo Jackson Courage Award in 2011.
Clark was featured as the keynote speaker at The Family Cafe Conference, and a TedX Conference and has spoken before the U.S. Sports Conference, National Baseball Hall of Fame, Corning Inc., Siemens Energy, and many more.
Besides being a motivational speaker, Clark runs camps for kids with perceived physical and mental limitations. He has been business partners with Doug Cornfield Sr., for a decade.
Clark and Cornfield met two decades ago at Dunn Field in Elmira, N.Y., where Clark was a coach for the Elmira Pioneers.
After a game carrying son Gideon who was born without arms, Cornfield called out to Clark. It wasn’t long before the two met for breakfast.
“I was amazed that I’d never heard of Dave’s story at the time,” says Cornfield, who played basketball and ran track at Taylor University in Upland, Ind., as a freshman before transferring to the University of Georgia. “I peppered Dave with questions.”
But these inquiries weren’t like the ones he’d heard so many times before.
“He talked about his son,” says Clark. “He was speaking as a parent who was concerned about raising a son with no arms.
“He asked what my parents did to let me accomplish what I did. The simple answer: They didn’t hold me back. They didn’t stop me from trying anything I wanted to try.”
Clark says Cornfield helped him to understand how important it is to share his story.
“We need some kind of good news in a world that glamorizes bad news,” says Clark, who now lives in Cape Coral, Fla.
Best Burn Enterprises is the for-profit side of the business and the Dave Clark Foundation the non-profit “which serves to inspire people from all walks of life to overcome personal challenges and perceived limitations in order to lead satisfying and productive lives.”
The events draw around 100 campers per site. It doesn’t cost them or their caregivers a dime. Through fundraising, the cost of the camp, caps, T-shirts, game tickets, and meals for 250-300 are covered.
Clark is always looking for fundraising opportunities and places to speak.
“It’s a true story that happened to me in first grade,” says Clark. “It’s the first time I ever experienced bullying. It’s always been in human society.
“Parents, brothers, neighborhood kids treated me like anybody else. When I got to grade school, I felt that pressure.”
One day, Clark’s teacher announced that the class would be going on a fire station field trip that required a walk of five or six blocks.
With two full-length leg braces and crutches, Clark knew he was sure to slow the class down and he would be a prime target for bullies.
On the day of the field trip, Clark told his mother he was ill and didn’t want to go to school.
“Mom was a fair but tough lady,” says Clark “She knew I wasn’t sick.”
So he went to school but made sure to be in the back of the line.
“Maybe they wouldn’t see I was dragging along,” says Clark.
That’s when classmate Ernie Pound came forward and offered Clark a ride in his red Radio Flyer wagon.
“‘I brought this for you to ride in. Jump in!,’” says Clark of Pound’s words that day. “What was going to be a lousy day turned out to be a great day.
“It’s a story of inclusion. It’s a story of kindness.”
Clark goes into schools and shares that story. Sales of the book — Cornfield is also working on other titles about those with physical or mental limitations based on true stories — help fund the camps.
Cornfield surprised Clark by bringing in Pound to a book signing in 2008 — many decades after that kind day. Cornfield says Clark is too emotional to watch the video of that moment.
There are hopes of making a movie about Clark’s life.
“It’s the greatest mostly unknown sports story,” says Cornfield.
That’s the story of Dave Clark. He’s the one who didn’t let polio stop him from achieving his goals.
“A Pound of Kindness” can be purchased at d3day.com with free shipping using the code: d3day.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the eBook can be downloaded for free using the code: stay home.
For more information, contact Cornfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-329-0010.
Doug Cornfield (left) and Dave Clark have been business partners for a decade.
Dave Clark (left), Doug Cornfield and Dave Stevens make appearances all over the country on behalf of those with perceived physical and mental limitations.
Dave Clark, who contracted polio at 10 months, got early attention for his abilities as a baseball player.
Dave Clark has even taken to the ice as a hockey goalie.
Dave Clark was affiliated with Team USA Baseball during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Dave Clark, using crutches and braces, was a player and owner for the Indianapolis Clowns.
Dave Clark waits his turn at the plate as member of the barnstorming Indianapolis Clowns.
President Bill Clinton (left) presents Dave Clark with the National Giant Steps Award.
Dave Clark, who contracted polio at 10 months, was a professional baseball player, coach, scout, and owner. He now tours the country as a motivational speaker.