(Long Island, N.Y.) The only way that this scenario could have been better is if it were to take place at home instead of on the road. But any time your team will be facing one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history – albeit one half a century old – is cause for positive apprehension.
The experiment occurring in Texas will extend to at least a second stanza when Roger Clemens takes the pitcher’s mound on Friday, September 7th at Constellation Field for the Sugar Land Skeeters to face our own Long Island Ducks. In his first outing on August 25th, ‘The Rocket’ threw three and one-third scoreless innings and one-hit ball versus the Bridgeport Bluefish.
No one – not even Clemens himself – knows where and when this is going to end up. But he is showing everyone that he can still at least get up there and bring it (with an 88 MPH fastball) while most people his age are more of the couch potato variety.
“To face a pitcher of his caliber will be a tremendous experience for our club,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “Roger had a great major league career and we’re excited for the opportunity to play against him.”
The added publicity and exposure does not hurt, either, for an independent league. Although the Atlantic League has had its fair share of big leaguers come through its turnstiles (such as Rickey Henderson and Juan Gonzalez), anything that Clemens’s name is attached to becomes instant top story material. Especially coming on the heels of his acquittal in the perjury steroid trial.
The Worldwide Leader in Sports will cover the game online via its ESPN3 network and they will cut in live throughout the night on SportsCenter with reporter Bob Holtzman and former Cincinnati Reds and Long Island Ducks closer Danny Graves behind the microphones.
There are a million theories why Clemens would decide to suit up again at this stage of his life. One is that since his last Major League Baseball appearance came in 2007 for the Yankees, Clemens will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot this year. If he makes even one appearance for, let’s say, the Houston Astros, before the end of the season, that will start the five-year wait clock on him again for the next time he can be considered for enshrinement into Cooperstown.
With the lack of votes from the BBWAA for other players either suspected or guilty of performance-enhancing drug use, Clemens may be trying to put it off as long as possible as to hope that clearer heads will prevail as this becomes less and less of an issue.
But that is a bit of a reach and there is more likelihood that he just loves pitching and wants to prove to the world that he can do it as long as he wants and do it effectively. Clemens is a special player and if you love him or hate him, there are no sports fans that will not at least check his pitching line in the Saturday morning newspaper.