Morning report: Look for the union label

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Good morning from the Fort, where the fog was slow to burn off and Sox players were later than usual to take the field, their normal routine interrupted by a meeting with a group of union officials led by Tony Clark, the new executive director. Anyone who knew Clark during his days as a Red Sox first baseman in 2002 should not be surprised that he would become such a force within the union -- his intelligence, level-headedness and ability to connect with people were plain to see.

Even then, Clark was a league representative with the union, and while he always took an active interest in union affairs, he said Saturday morning that he had imagined a future where he would serve as a right-hand man to union chief Michael Weiner for years to come. But Weiner, a beloved figure in the union, succumbed to brain cancer last November at the age of 51, and Clark, 41, became the first non-lawyer to lead the union, following in the steps of the legendary Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr and Weiner.

Clark had a rough season with the Sox in 2002, posting the worst numbers of his career (.207/.265/.291/.556) a year after being claimed off waivers from Detroit, where he had been an All-Star. He signed with the Mets as a free agent, and a year later was with the Yankees, with whom he almost altered the course of Sox history in Game 5 of the ALCS. With two out in the ninth inning and Ruben Sierra on first, Clark hit a double into the right-field corner. Had the ball stayed in play, Sierra might have scored the go-ahead run and the Sox would have been eliminated.

Instead, the ball hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double, Keith Foulk retired Miguel Cairo on a pop fly to end the inning, and David Ortiz’s single in the 14th won it for the Sox.

“Everybody I’ve talked to today,’’ Clark said Saturday morning, “has mentioned that play.’’

Clark was expected to address the players about the change in leadership, the new rules governing replay and home-plate collisions, both of which require union approval, potential changes in the Joint Drug Agreement, and whatever issues the players might raise.