Note: This story first appeared in the Winter 2023-2024 edition of Legacy: A Magazine for Alumni and Friends.
As brothers growing up near Toronto, Dalton and Brandon Clarke liked to compete with one another.
“Whether it was baseball or Monopoly, we were always seeking a win,” said younger brother Brandon Clarke. “As we grew up, we definitely learned the boundaries. There’s a time to be competitive and a time to relax and just enjoy yourself. Growing up, it was always competitive. We always wanted to get the edge over each other.”
They followed one another’s baseball careers, from youth leagues through high school, and were glad to finally play for the same team at Indiana University Kokomo — though not at the same time.
“IUK for Brandon and me is where we both grew up and took the final steps into adulthood,” said Dalton Clarke. “On the field and academically, I put everything together while I was here. I did my best in the classroom, I had my best baseball seasons, and I learned how to grow up and be more mature. Brandon started planning for his career here, and he was killing it on the field. We both grew up a lot here.”
As a member of the first Cougar baseball team in 2018, Dalton was pleased when his brother joined him in Kokomo in 2022, knowing he would hold the same high standards he and his teammates set.
“Being on the first team, we weren’t going to let this fail,” he said. “We wanted to hit the ground running. It was cool to build something. There’s a lot of pride in the fact that we had success, and that those who followed us were going to keep building on it. A lot of our alumni were involved or communicating with the guys who were on the team after us. It felt like our baby, and we wanted to be sure it was taken care of.”
For Brandon Clarke, playing where his brother played gave him an idea of what to expect at IU Kokomo.
“He set me up for success,” he said. “Dalton gave me the ins and outs of the daily process at IUK, so I would be prepared. I also had him as a resource not only to know what to expect, but to have someone to go to with questions or when I needed support. Without a doubt, it enriched my experience. It would have been difficult without his prior experience for sure.”
It was also a family reunion for them, as Dalton had married and stayed in Kokomo after graduating.
“We’d been apart for three years, so it was nice to have family gatherings again,” Dalton said. “Brandon had a lot more offers than I did. It was huge to know he would stay with the same host family I did, and he’d be in the same community with me, and we’d look after each other.”
“Kokomo is almost 1,000 miles from home. When you’re that far away, it’s nice to have family so conveniently located,” he said. “Knowing he and his new family would be here, it was a no-brainer to go away to school but have him close.”
Their parents also appreciated that they were together.
“It was nice for our parents to know we had each other. It gave them a lot of peace of mind,” Dalton said. “They would both say we need to be better at calling them. I’ll take most of that blame. Brandon’s much better at that.”
While both played baseball, each chose a different path through the sport and in college.
Dalton, an infielder, played two years at an Illinois junior college after high school before transferring to IU Kokomo, where he earned a degree in history and political science in 2019. He got married soon after graduating and worked as a middle school teacher for a short time before accepting his current job as a salesman at Button Dodge in Kokomo.
He chose college in the U.S. because of the baseball opportunities. Canadian universities have baseball, but it’s they play a short fall season, rather than the long spring seasons played in the states.
“There are a ton of talented players there, but if you want to push yourself to be the best, you have to go to the U.S.,” he said. “To have any chance of continuing to play past college, you have to play at an American university.”
Brandon said his brother’s college career inspired his own.
“I remember when he first went away to school, “ he said. “I hadn’t even been thinking about going to the U.S. and playing. That sparked it for me. He showed me this other world of possibilities and motivated me to want to be the best I could. I saw how much success he had at IU Kokomo. I wanted to follow in his footsteps but try my best to grow in those footsteps.”
Brandon, a pitcher and outfielder, played at a Texas community college before transferring to IU Kokomo. He earned a degree in exercise science in 2023 and completed the honors program. He’s currently working as a kinesiologist at a physiotherapy clinic in Ontario and applying to graduate schools. He plans to study kinesiology and exercise physiology, most likely at a Canadian university.
Dalton said Brandon was always a good student, so he wasn’t surprised by his success, “but it still makes you proud.
“He’s always going to be my little brother.”