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Roger Clemens Returns: Another PerspectivePosted on August 24, 2012 at 08:05 AM.
The pitch was an outside fastball, the exact pitch I was hoping for and waiting for. It was the first pitch of the at bat, but I knew Iíd pounce on that pitch if I had a chance. That was where I liked it. The line drive fell right in front of the right fielder for a base hit. I rounded first, went back to the bag, and watched the next batter strikeout to end the game. I didnít realize that it would be my last at bat in competitive baseball.
That at bat was nearly 19 years ago. But, I still remember that feeling of the ball just flying off the bat, taking the turn, and heading back to the bag. Nothing beats that feeling of competing. Nothing, not even coaching, has matched that feeling.
Since then, Iíve done what all competitive males have done. Iíve played in the softball leagues. Iíve tried other ways to fuel that competitive desire that we all have. But, nothing came close to matching the moments on the field.
Sometimes we can forget that professional athletes--the ones with all the money--have that same type of desire. They crave a type of competition that they can only get at the professional level. That competition fueled them for so many years. When itís gone, many have difficulty replacing it.
Brett Favre had that problem. So does Roger Clemens.
Roger Clemens will be the starting pitcher for the Sugarland Skeeters tomorrow night. Many view this as a publicity stunt. There is some speculation that this is just an attempt to tune up before signing with the Houston Astros to pitch a game in September. If Clemens throws one Major League pitch, his Hall of Fame clock will reset, meaning he will be off this winterís ballot and wait five more years before appearing again. The hope would be that the overall feelings towards P.E.D users and suspects will be vastly different.
Nobody knows if any of that is true. It is, as with everything surrounding Clemens, purely speculation. Itís also likely all true.
But, does any of that really matter? What is wrong with a person at age 50 standing on a mound, throwing some pitches, and essentially saying, ďI amĒ?
Perhaps there is an ulterior motive in this, but here is a man who has accomplished every single possible feat at the Major League level. He has more money than he knows what to do with. He wants to pitch at the age of 50. Even if he fails in this independent league start, it will not do anything to besmirch his image in any way. He still won 354 games. He still struck out 4,672 batters. And, he still has those seven Cy Young Awards. None of that can be taken away, even if everyone thinks they know he cheated.
There is something interesting about a man just wanting to compete. It is ego driven for sure. Everything elite athletes do is ego driven. That ego is what makes them special and able to make it at the top level. It is what separates them from the rest of us. The way Clemens went about retiring and un-retiring was purely for the attention. Favre knew this practice well. But, underneath all of that ego was a desire to compete. That desire wasnít extinguished. Itís as if that competition was the only way to truly be peaceful in life. Most of us have no idea what thatís like. We arenít blessed with those rare gifts to compete with the best in the world. We donít know what itís like to only be able to compete at an elite level. We donít know what itís like to be told that we are at the end of our career at age 35.
Itís why we still join the softball leagues, deal with pulled muscles from the lack of activity during the week, and still come back for more. Itís why people become obsessed with golf, Sunday softball, and club sports. Recreational sports is about filling that competitive desire in us. Itís about the camaraderie with our friends. We do the same thing; trying to re-live our glory years from the high school and college fields. That ego is within us too. We just donít have to feed it as much.
Athletes like Roger Clemens and Brett Favre donít have that option. The only way they could extinguish the competitive fire was to keep playing. They both knew that they should retire; they just couldnít. Sunday morning leagues just donít cut it for them. You would hope that someone like Clemens could find peace, but here he is getting ready to toe the rubber on Saturday in an independent league. Maybe he has a plan. But, maybe he is just searching for some peace after many years of turmoil.
Clemens isnít the first former Major League great to play in an independent league. Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, played in independent leagues for two more years after his last Major League at bat. Henderson was a first ballot Hall of Famer. The independent league seasons didnít hurt his legacy at all. He simply played because he loved to play. Did he long for another Major League at bat during those two seasons? Probably, but he played anyway.
Nobody knows exactly what is going through Roger Clemensí mind. Maybe he is wanting to make a comeback. Maybe he wants to delay his Hall of Fame clock. Perhaps, he just wants the attention. Maybe, he just wants to pitch in a game. Maybe there is, as Rocky Balboa said, some ďstuff in the basementĒ.
Whatever the motives, one of the sportís best pitchers of all-time will be throwing a pitch in a competitive game. Heís risking embarrassment. Heís risking failure. Heís already taking the ridicule. There is something to like about all of this. The defiant Clemens is heading to the mound just to see what he can still do. He is seeing if he has enough to perhaps be able to find that competition. Maybe this time he can extinguish it.
Despite all of the controversy, Roger Clemens could end up on a Major League mound this season. The Astros are watching. They are in need of a good story. Clemens returning would be a good story. Putting aside all of the Hall of Fame and steroids nonsense, this is a story about finding that feeling just one more time. Itís about stopping the clock and just doing something. Itís about beating age, even for a little while. He may fail. But, if he doesnít, Roger Clemens gets to live out that feeling of elite competitor one more time. We all wish that we could have that opportunity, that one last shot to have that feeling that drove us during our younger days.
For that, there is something to admire about Roger Clemens taking the mound again. He risks becoming more of a punchline. It takes guts to get on the mound at 50 years old. Clemens has always done things his way. This is no different. Most would advise him to stay away and stay out of the spotlight. Instead, he goes out to the mound, knowing that most want him to fail. Yet, he goes out there in search of peace.
We all wish we had that option.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 207 days ago)
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