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Kody Clemens thread of appreciation

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Article in The Athletic today:

 

 

‘It definitely comes with pressure’: Kody Clemens carries his name proudly, while searching for his own legacy 

Standing by the center field wall of TD Ameritrade Field, soaking in his first moments at the famed College World Series venue, Andy McGuire heard it — one word, cutting through the Omaha air like a knife.

“Steroids!”

The jeer, delivered by a spectator in the bleachers, had an obvious target: Kody Clemens, McGuire’s friend and teammate. Kody, the son of Roger Clemens and star second baseman of the Texas Longhorns, had heard derisive comments like that for much of his life. Instead of bristling, he turned around and thanked the fan for coming out to the ballpark.

“Just sort of like the classiest way to shut somebody up and show them your personality and how that stuff doesn’t really get under your skin,” McGuire said.

Kody Clemens has never been accused of taking steroids, nor can he claim seven Cy Young Awards and two World Series rings. But his surname has deep ties to baseball, for better or worse.

The Tigers picked Kody in the third round of the MLB Draft this past June, after which he became the third Clemens kid to turn pro. It’s his turn to stake his own path, balancing the pride of being a Clemens with an aim to become more than just Roger’s son.

“It definitely comes with pressure,” Kody said. “Obviously there’s a target on your back with whatever you do. There’s gonna be positives and negatives about it. But me and my brother (Kacy, who plays in Toronto’s farm system), together, it kind of just lights the fire beneath us. It definitely makes us want to create our own path and our own legacy throughout the game of baseball.”


Kody’s first memory of playing baseball is fielding grounders as an eager 3-year-old while on vacation in Hawaii. At the time, his dad had already collected five Cy Young Awards and nearly 250 wins. For most of his childhood, Kody was clueless about what his dad was doing on the mound at the sport’s highest level.

“Me and Kacy, we always talked about (how) we wished we were 16 and 17 (back then), like old enough to actually understand what he was doing,” Kody said. “Because my memories while he was playing was just being with other kids in the family room and waiting for the game to get done with.”

Imagine that. While Roger was on the mound mowing down major league hitters, Kody was probably running around the bottom of Yankee Stadium with David Wells’ or Mike Mussina’s kids. Kody surely didn’t care about his dad’s strikeouts or ERA; he just wanted to know when it was time to go home.

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Seven-year-old Kody Clemens (center front) was on hand with mom Debbie and all his brothers when Roger joined the Astros in January 2004. (David J. Phillip/AP)

Home for the Clemens family is Houston, where Roger and Debbie raised Koby (31 years old), Kory (30), Kacy (24) and Kody (22) — and it’s no coincidence their names start with “K,” given they are sons of a fireballer who ranks third on the all-time strikeout list. From there, the University of Texas at Austin became like a second home.

First was Roger, of course, who won the 1983 national championship and has his No. 21 retired at Disch-Falk Field. Next was Koby, who committed to the Longhorns before signing a pro contract with the Astros in 2005 instead (he played a decade in the pro ranks). Then Kory attended the school, but didn’t play. And finally there was Kacy and Kody, who both excelled at Texas before heading off to pro ball.

Due to the age gap with his two oldest brothers, Kody has always been closest with Kacy. It’s no accident they wound up at the same college. They’re inseparable.

“Typical younger brother,” Kacy said of Kody. “Always looking up to his older brothers and trying to be just like them. I think he didn’t realize how good he was until a later age because he always saw us doing big things and he was just the younger brother.”

Aside from a freshman year stint playing golf, Kody was a baseball-only athlete at Houston’s Memorial High School. (He considered football, but entered ninth grade at 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds — “And I was like, yeah, that’s not gonna work,” he said). As a sophomore, Kody made the varsity team at Memorial, relishing the chance to play with Kacy for the first time.

By then, the buzz around Roger Clemens’ sons playing high school ball had simmered. But Memorial head coach Jeremy York, who coached all four boys, remembers when it was at its apex.

“It was hysteria in Houston,” said York, recalling the 2004 season when Koby was a senior at Memorial and Roger had signed with the Astros. “We’re playing a ball game and there is a line, I would say, geez, at least 50 yards of people lined up to get autographs. Of course, (Roger) won’t sign during the game because he’s watching the game. And he sat there (after) and he autographed every single one. … I just thought that was so amazing.”

Just a few years later, however, a new form of attention — negativity and skepticism, mostly — attached itself to the family name. Roger Clemens was included in the infamous Mitchell Report in 2007, implicated for taking steroids and human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001. Despite owning Hall of Fame numbers, he is not in Cooperstown.

Kody was just 11 when the report findings surfaced, but he grew up quickly as he heard about it from opposing fans. References to steroids and HGH were common in high school and worsened in college.

“It’s not fun being the only player out there that people heckle every fricken game,” Kody said. “But I think me and (Kacy) have dealt with it our entire life, so it doesn’t really bother us anymore.”

For years, handling hecklers has just been part of the territory. Kody hardly thinks about it anymore. Having a famous dad has always meant living under more scrutiny than the average player. Roger’s post-career controversy added a new layer, but Kody is immune to the noise.

And really, if he’d wanted to run away from the extra attention brought on by the Clemens name, he’s have picked someplace other than Texas to play college ball.

In truth, Texas presented another opportunity to play with Kacy, which felt like a no-brainer. They shared the right side of the infield together in 2016, and were likely to do so again the next season — until something wildly unexpected happened.

Kody called it a freak accident. And it was. In the summer after his freshman year, he was, in his words, “horsing around” with Kory. They were wrestling, in good fun. But when it was over, Kody’s right elbow was throbbing.

There had been no “pop,” no definitive moment when the injury was sustained. But MRI results showed a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) that would require Tommy John surgery to fix.

 

“I was just devastated, obviously,” Kody said. “I’ve never had arm issues my whole life playing baseball.”

A note of irony: While Kody tore his UCL in that freak off-the-field incident, Roger, who made a living off high-90s fastballs, avoided a similar fate over a 24-year career.

On Aug, 16, 2016, Dr. James Andrews performed Kody’s surgery, starting the clock on an arduous road to recovery. Kody wore a sling for two weeks, then an adjustable brace (which gradually allowed him to expand his range of motion) for another month or so. After that, he started doing some forearm workouts and other light lifting. At four months, he was swinging a bat. At six months, he was throwing (his return time was quicker because he’s not a pitcher).

Kody didn’t consider redshirting his sophomore season because he wanted one more year to play with his brother. But that meant a move to designated hitter, something he had never done.

On Feb. 17, 2017, in the season opener against Rice, the Longhorns’ newly minted DH went 2-for-4 with a home run. He finished the year with good-not-great numbers (a .241 batting average and .356 on-base percentage) and appeared to be on a path to a four-year college career like Kacy, with hopes of landing a pro contract after that.

Then came the 2018 season, during which Kody had one of the best seasons in recent history at Texas. He added 100 points to his batting average and nearly doubled his slugging percentage from the year before, thanks in part to his 24 home runs (the second-highest single-season mark in Longhorns history). He was one of four finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s best amateur ballplayer.

With a year like that, there was no doubt some team was going to give Kody a call early in the MLB Draft. One year prior, this was no sure thing. Kody, who majored in corporate communication, figured a career in business was his backup to baseball. If things hadn’t gone the way he hoped in the recent draft, he was considering an internship in Baltimore with Under Armour.

“Luckily, my office is a baseball field,” he said with a laugh.

Kody credits his statistical surge to improved plate discipline, a tweaked batting stance and general maturation as a player. That maturity translated off the field, too. With Kacy gone, Kody blossomed into a team leader at Texas.

Some teammates painted him as the classic lead-by-example guy, who paired success with a lighthearted attitude in a way that rubbed off positively on others. But there’s more to it than that. He went out of his way to bring teammates together.

In fact, in what was an unintentional homage to the Lone Star state, Kody used barbecue as a means of team bonding. With his electric smoker, which was a birthday gift, Kody cooked a bunch of chicken and ribs for about 30 teammates this season as a way to integrate the freshmen and junior college transfers. That required learning the ins and outs of the smoker: how long to preheat it, what temperature is required for specific meats and which types of wood chips to use for varied flavors.

But if you know Kody, you know he’s not one to turn away from something once his mind is set on it.

“We call him the ‘doer,’” Kacy said. “If he wants something done, he’s doing it now. He’s kind of pushy. … I think that’s a good quality to have, especially in this game. There’s not much waiting around with him. He’s kinda like go, go, go.”

That may be just the attitude Kody needs amid the grind of the minor leagues, where he’s adjusting to a demanding schedule as he tries to climb the professional ladder. Starting on the Class-A rung in West Michigan, Kody has posted a strong .299/.391/.474 slash line. There are talented middle infielders above him in the Tigers’ prospect pool, but having three years of collegiate reps may help his advancement.

For now, he’s an everyday player in West Michigan, where the inescapable baseball connection between him and Roger was on display in late July when Roger pitched some pregame batting practice.

“I tell (Kody) they’re taking enough batting practice; there’s no reason for me to come out and throw or do anything like that,” Roger said to a small media gathering on July 31. “But I guess he wants to see if I can still do it, or something.”

 

If it had been any other father-son duo on the team, there certainly would’ve been less fanfare. That’s OK with Kody, though. He doesn’t shy away from his dad’s baseball legacy; in some form or another, that legacy will always be tied to him.

Kody is spared from direct comparisons to his dad because he isn’t a pitcher, but as he works to reach the majors, it’s hard not to wonder how he might stack up with the 11-time All Star.

“I mean, if I’m half as good as he was, obviously that’s gonna be a pretty good career,” Kody said. “So that’s the kind of way I look at it.”

 

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Hitting Advanced-A ball as a 9th round pick is impressive.  Writer at FG has Clemens as the Tigers' 9th best prospect (ranked ahead of the Tigers' 1st round pick Parker Meadows) in their mid-season update:

Quote

I’m a huge Clemens fan. His makeup/drive is outstanding and, although he’s not the most toolsy guy, he gets 110% out of his abilities. I think he’ll hit for a respectable average with gap pop (potential double-digit homers as he matures) and good on-base abilities. Defensively, he should handle everything he gets to.

https://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/detroit-tigers-top-10-prospects-updated/

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As stated above,  Lakeland is Class A Advanced.    Kacy plays for Dunedin,  Toronto's A Advanced team in same league.

Lakeland and Dunedin have concluded their season matchups.    Regular season ends first week of September.

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Congrats to the two.

Deatherage and Clemens have been clearly the best two hitters since they arrived after the draft, and CWS, respectively.  One night in the past two weeks Deatherage was 5 for 5 while Clemens was 2-3 with 2 walks.  Clemens has had slightly less BA all summer while quite a bit more power.  

 

edit: new team website:

https://www.milb.com/lakeland

First game started a bit ago:

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Edited by zork

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Speaking of Kody Clemens, in the game thread tonight:

Quote

...

Lakeland, FL - The Lakeland Flying Tigers have announced their tentative 2019 Opening Day roster. It will feature nine top 10 draft picks and 16 players who appeared in games for the Flying Tigers in 2018. The roster includes 13 pitchers, 3 catchers, 5 infielders, 4 outfielders and 2 players on the disabled list.

Starting pitcher Casey Mize headlines a list of prospects. Mize is currently rated the top prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization by MLB.com. He is also rated as the #18 prospect in Minor League Baseball and the 3rd best right-handed pitching prospect. He was selected by the Tigers as the first overall selection of the June 2018 draft from Auburn University. Mize became just the second two-time All-American and consensus All-American in Auburn history. He earned first-team All-SEC honors and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy in 2018.

The rotation will also include Dane Myers, Tarik Skubal, Elvin Rodriguez and Jesus Rodriguez. Elvin Rodriguez was the West Michigan Whitecaps Pitcher of the Year in 2018.

Infielder Kody Clemens leads the Flying Tigers offensive firepower. Clemens is currently rated the sixteenth-best prospect in the Tigers organization by MLB.com and was selected by the Tigers in the third round of the June 2018 draft out of the University of Texas.

The Flying Tigers 25-man Opening Day roster is as follows:

 

PITCHERS (13): Ethan DeCaster, Jason Foley, Max Green, Casey Mize, Dane Myers, Joe Navilhon, Wladimir Pinto, Elvin Rodriguez, Jesus Rodriguez, Brandyn Sittinger, Tarik Skubal, Will Vest, Burris Warner

 

CATCHERS (3): Austin Athmann, Joey Morgan, Brady Policelli

 

INFIELDERS (5): Kody Clemens, Cole Peterson, Reynaldo Rivera, Zac Shepherd, A.J. Simcox

 

OUTFIELDERS (4): Luke Burch, Brock Deatherage, Danny Reyes, Dylan Rosa

...

https://www.milb.com/lakeland/news/flying-tigers-announce-opening-day-roster/c-305760606

Opening day for Lakeland is April 4th.

 

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