’The Rocket’ jets back into World Am field

Clemens hits the links in the Myrtle Beach area

ablondin@thesunnews.comAugust 27, 2012 

— Roger Clemens has yet to find an opportune time to play in the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship. But that hasn’t stopped him.

His first appearance two years ago occurred the same day as a 2 p.m. court hearing in Washington, D.C., and required a flight on a private jet into North Myrtle Beach and a specially-arranged first round from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at The Pearl Golf Links with a marker and rules official.

His second appearance this week began 36 hours after the resumption of his pro pitching career with a 3 1/3-inning shutout performance Saturday for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League.

Despite being retired from Major League Baseball since 2007, the harried traveling is somewhat routine, according to Clemens, who plans to participate in future World Am tournaments.

“It’s part of my schedule and the way we do things,” Clemens said. “We’re real active. I’m sure we’ll go home and rest for about a week and there will be something else that comes up on the calendar.”

That “something else” could be another start on the mound, though Clemens said Monday he doesn’t have any more pitching performances planned – at the moment. “Not at this point,” Clemens said. “That could change in a couple days, but right now we haven’t talked to any of the guys or anything like that.”

Clemens planned a run on the beach following his round and said his right arm “feels fine. This is good for it, good exercise,” he said. “We’ll do a little cardio [Monday] and try to get some more of that soreness out. It’s good soreness though.

“We came out of it all right and everybody had a good time, so that was the key.”

Clemens allowed one hit Saturday against the Bridgeport Bluefish, struck out two without a walk and threw 37 pitches. His fastball was clocked at 88 mph and he mixed in curveballs and split-finger fastballs during the outing.

He claims his first pro pitching performance in nearly five years as a 50-year-old was essentially a favor to the Skeeters and their manager, former major leaguer Gary Gaetti, who was a hitting instructor with the Houston Astros when Clemens pitched there from 2004-06.

“The Sugar Land Skeeters have brought a lot to that little town and it was a lot of excitement for them,” Clemens said. “I didn’t come out of retirement. That was an independent start and pretty fun. It’s a lot of work to go out and do that. But I’m pretty active. I throw with the boys whether it be high school, college or even some of the minor league teams.”

Clemens won 354 games in a 24-year career with Boston, Toronto, the New York Yankees and Houston. His 4,672 strikeouts are third-most in history, he won seven Cy Young Awards and was picked for 11 All-Star games.

Clemens is set to be on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters later this year. But if he plays in a major league game this season, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years.

Scouts from the Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals were on hand to watch his comeback, and Clemens has a personal services contract with the Astros and owner Jim Crane and occasionally works with the team’s younger pitchers.

Speculation about Clemens’ possible use of performance-enhancing drugs could keep him from receiving the votes required to get into the Hall. Though in June, Clemens was acquitted of charges he lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancers.

He has insisted he doesn’t currently have plans to return to a Major League mound. “Right now everybody’s speculating I’m going to come back and pitch,” Clemens told ESPN last week. “They’re just out of their mind right now. I’m nowhere close.”

So he’ll concentrate on his golf game this week as one of about 3,100 players in the World Am, which continues through Friday on 60 Grand Strand courses.

An invitation from a friend who is involved with a tournament sponsor led to the participation of Clemens and his wife, Debbie, in 2010. “We really enjoyed it,” Clemens said. “My wife is really the golfer in the family. She’s very competitive, has a handful of club championships, so she really likes to play and compete so it’s fun for her.”

Six friends are joining Clemens in the competition this week, including former Major League pitcher Danny Darwin and his wife, Hilda. “So my little group is growing,” Clemens said. “It’s fun. I’ve got a couple real close friends in the event and it’s good competition for them. I think they’re going to enjoy the entire week.”

Clemens shot an 84 Monday, a score he said his wife bettered. He’s playing in Flight 18 for men ages 50-59 with handicaps between 6.8 and 7.5, and the flight played Diamond Back at Woodland Valley on Monday. “It was a pretty good day for me today,” Clemens said. “Now hopefully I can get a little bit lower. . . . If they'd let me throw it I could probably score better.”

Clemens had his handicap reduced to 6.9 by the tournament committee because he hasn’t posted a score since June. In addition to his own baseball activity, his two youngest sons are in high school and play baseball, and his 18-year-old son is playing high school football this fall. He’s also active with his charitable Roger Clemens Foundation.

“I like to play against the guys for a few bucks here or there,” Clemens said. “But this is all fun. I don’t expect to shoot too well. If I shoot a couple 70 numbers it will be great. But I don’t practice enough.”

Clemens and his wife are planning to compete in the Executive Cup for current or past private club champions in late October at The Resort at Pelican Hill on the Southern California coast. He said the date of his future participation in the World Am “depends on when it falls and what the two young ones are doing.”

If recent history is any indication, they’ll have to be quite busy to keep Clemens from the World Am.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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