RIDGEDALE – Roger Clemens said he has been invited to play in the pro-am at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf for a couple of years.
The timing and schedules never worked out.
Until this year, when he found another reason to make his first visit to the Ozarks.
When Clemens checked the schedule, he saw the Springfield Cardinals were in town this week. Conner Capel is an outfielder for the Double-A Cardinals, and Clemens – who played with Mike Capel at the University of Texas, is Conner’s godfather.
So a trip to Hammons Field on Tuesday was followed by a short drive south, and rounds in the pro-am for the Legends of Golf.
Clemens made his name – and fortune – as the most dominant pitcher of his generation – winning 354 games, seven Cy Young Awards, making 11 All-Star teams and winning a pair of World Series titles.
These days, he’s spending his retirement doing as much hunting and fishing as possible, working with the Houston Astros, and helping a group of about 20 to 25 big-league players with the mental part of the game.
“They’re already in the major leagues, they know what to do and how to win,” Clemens said.
“Sometimes you can get a little down on your game or you need to make a little adjustment in your mental part of your game or maybe a grip or a pitch or two.”
He enjoys the freedom of not being tied down to a coaching position or a team on a full-time basis, but can come and go as he pleases while trying to help a new generation of players.
That new generation includes his four sons – Koby, Kory, Kacy and Kody – with K-themed names and three of them with lives full of baseball.
Koby played eight seasons in the minor leagues, Kacy is at the Double-A level with the Blue Jays and Kody is in Class A with the Tigers.
“It’s just fun,” he said. “When the guys ask pointed questions, I give them a pointed answer, and same thing with the boys.
“The boys, I just stay out of their way and I try to play the dad role, but if they come to me with something that’s on their mind that we can be specific about, we’re dead on with that.”
Clemens – whose career ended following the 2007 season and covered 24 seasons with four teams – was dogged by rumors and allegations of using anabolic steroids.
Those allegations are obviously the only thing that has kept him from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Clemens was named on 59.5 percent of the ballots cast for the 2019 induction ceremonies, but was still 66 votes shy of what was needed.
When asked his most cherished memory from his playing days, Clemens quickly answered the fact that he was scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the New York Yankees against his former team, the Boston Red Sox, on Sept. 11, 2001.
The terrorist attacks striking New York City – near where he and his wife, Deborah, lived at the time – led to the shutdown of baseball for several days.
Clemens wound up traveling to the Middle East to meet with members of the armed forces, and was clearly moved by the experience, and by having police officers and fire fighters from New York City taking the field at Yankee Stadium once the games removed.
It’s the most vivid of the memories that mark his playing career.
“Those were memories from playing my 24 years I’ll remember,” Clemens said. “Facing different guys like Reggie Jackson and having the opportunity to talk to Ted Williams.
“I played on the field right where Lou Gehrig gave his farewell speech. It doesn’t get much better than that when you talk about history.”
Even at age 56, Clemens still strikes an imposing figure, at 6-foot-4 and with his athletic frame intact.
The way he talks about baseball and working with young players, you get the distinct impression that the competitive fires still burn hot.
“It’s very tough to play,” he said. “You can’t forget about how hard it was as you get older. It looks easy from the stands, let me tell you. It looks easy and it looks slow.
“But when you’re standing in the box and I’m whistling one in there about 98 miles an hour. You might hear it. You might not see it, but you’ll hear it.”