Like many great stories in America, Stephen Clark's began on the baseball diamond as a kid.
Clark, 50, was recently named the superintendent of the National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, including the Flight 93 National Memorial, but said his journeys and jobs in America's greatest treasures began in Delco, Drexel Hill to be exact.
"Without baseball, who knows where I would be. Baseball started it all," Clark said Tuesday.
Playing on a baseball team that won several tournaments, Clark said he wound up on a district team that played in Smethport, Pa. One of the hosts, a man Mark Caldwell, took the boys spotting deer and shooting rifles. Clark was hooked.
Clark, whose father, Joe Clark, was a reporter with the Daily News, told teachers at Monsignor Bonner High School he wanted to study wildlife and after degrees from Penn State and Slippery Rock University, he joined the National Park Service and had stints in some of the best it had to offer. He worked at Biscayne National Park in Miami, Virgin Islands National Park, Lake Roosevelt in Washington, the Delaware Water Gap and more. Prior to taking over in Western Pennsylvania, he was in Philadelphia as the chief ranger for the Northeast Region.
"Every single one of them is special," he said, trying not to pick a favorite.
Running the Flight 93 National Memorial outside Shanksville, Somerset County, however, is unlike any job he's ever had, Clark said, because it's still a living, raw experience for the people who visit.
"My relationship with the families of Flight 93, ensuring that we are working closely with them and talking to them when they need to is completely different. I don't know of any parks with that type of dynamic," he said. "We talk often."
The memorial's new visitor center opens to the public on Thursday, and there will be a public ceremony on Sept. 11 to commemorate the passengers and crew who fought the terrorists aboard Flight 93 before it crashed.