You are going to love -- or hate? -- Max Clark's new kicks

April 15th, 2024

considers himself an artistic person. The only problem -- he can't draw.

Instead, MLB's No. 13 overall prospect expresses himself in other ways, such as through his shoes and tattoos. Clark is a massive sneakerhead, bringing about three dozen shoes, along with a growing collection of custom cleats, to Single-A Lakeland this season.

Clark's newest spikes are ones that even those who doubted him when Detroit drafted him third overall in 2023 just might have to appreciate.

In collaboration with Lucia Footwear, the 19-year-old designed two different shoes to wear on each foot. On his left, red cleats with real posts talking about how he was the wrong pick and will be a bust. On the right, a blue shoe with words of praise and affirmation.

After going 0-for-11 to start the season and feeling uncomfortable at the plate, the Tigers' top prospect sat down with Lakeland manager Andrew Graham, and they talked about the mind-body connection and staying clear-headed and confident. Clark donned his new cleats to remind himself of that -- and the early results have been positive with six hits, four walks and two steals over the past six games.

"It's kind of like when you're looking at your shoulder when you're struggling, there's always that little devil on your shoulder telling you, 'You're not good enough, blah, blah, blah, you're not made for this, you don't belong here,' things like that," Clark said.

"Then on the flip side, there's the angel that's guiding you to grind and figure it out and giving you the confidence to know that you belong here. It's been something that I've been not only thinking about day-to-day but really preaching to myself, how much I do belong here. And that's obviously made a huge increase in my play over the last week."

Clark's collection began in high school when he collaborated on aqua and baby blue cleats to match Franklin Community (Ind.) High School colors, with lightning bolts and tridents for Greek gods Zeus and Poseidon. From there, he added neon pink and gold Louis Vuitton spikes.

His stockpile has increased markedly this year -- and only gotten more creative. There's an orange Louis Vuitton pair and ones inspired by his favorite anime show. He has custom Yeezys and an off-white and UNC blue pair of Jordans. Plus cleats with "Pain and Suffering" and "Strength and Guidance" on different shoes, a similar theme to the angel and demon cleats.

Clark has drawn inspiration from Major Leaguers -- he thinks Jazz Chisholm Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Javier Báez have the best cleats -- and likes to mix and match with Lakeland's various uniforms. Road grays and blues usually call for his orange spikes, while just about everything goes with home whites.

Ones that drew plenty of attention during Spring Training were Detroit-themed for the Tigers' Spring Breakout game and created in collaboration with Chandler Customs. He married iconography of Comerica Park, a Corvette and the Motor City skyline with a few allusions to his Indiana home.

Of course, cleat care is crucial, especially with all the sliding and diving the speedy outfielder does. He makes sure to use a scrub brush between every game and takes care to avoid scrapes when taking them off. Earlier in the season, he used one spike to try to take off the other and accidentally dug into the foam soles. That's a mistake he'll only make once.

So what's next for his burgeoning collection?

"I kinda just like to go with the flow, depending on how certain things are affecting me or things that are important to me as I get older," Clark said. "I definitely want to have a (children's) shoe one day that my kids will design and kind of like draw up. That'll be cool. I think that's something that will always be important to me."