PEORIA, Ariz. - Throughout an unprecedented and unmatched 24-year Major League Baseball career, hard-throwing Roger "The Rocket" Clemens was selected to pitch in 11 MLB All-Star Games.
In just less than two weeks, in beautiful downtown San Diego, Clemens will have the opportunity to watch his third of four sons, Kacy Clemens, play in the most prestigious all-star event for high school seniors in the nation.
Kacy Clemens, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound right-handed pitcher and left-handed swinging first baseman who will start his senior year at Memorial High School in Houston in the fall, has been selected to play for the West Team at the 10th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings Aug. 12 at the Padres' PETCO Park.
Kacy Clemens was born in September, 1994, to Roger and Debbie Clemens when Roger was in his 11th MLB season, all with the Boston Red Sox. The Rocket had already made five All-Star Game appearances by the time Kacy was born, but six more were to follow; Kacy feels qualified to compare the PG All-American Classic to the MLB Midsummer Classic.
"We're out there and we're getting all that gear and, honestly, it's like the MLB All-Star Game but it's for high school," Kacy said Thursday morning from the Peoria Sports Complex while preparing to play for the Houston Banditos at the 17u Perfect Game World Series. "It's going to be an awesome experience; I can't wait."
Roger Clemens ranks as one of the greatest pitchers of all time. In his 24 seasons with the Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, he won 354 games (ninth all-time), recorded 4,672 strikeouts (third all-time) and won seven Cy Young Awards to go with those 11 All-Star appearances.
Kacy's oldest brother, Koby Clemens, is in his eighth minor league season playing at New Hampshire in the Toronto farm system in the Double-A Eastern League, so Roger is now watching a second son climb the baseball ladder (his second oldest, Kory, is a chef and his youngest, Kody, will be a sophomore at Memorial in the fall and is just getting started with PG) so he knows the drill.
Koby Clemens played in the 2004 PG/BA World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., and the 17u PG World Series is Kacy's fourth PG event, including the 2011 PG Junior National Showcase, but the PG All-American Classic certainly raises the bar.
"I'm excited for all the boys (who were selected), not just Kacy," Roger said Thursday morning after watching the Banditos win for the second time in four pool-play games at the 17u PG World Series. "Kacy has worked extremely hard, and he's Kacy Clemens; he gets to be his own man just like my oldest one. I'm their dad and when they ask for a little advice I give it, but other than that I let them just go out there and try to fly and spread their wings and do their things."
Kacy is playing his first summer with head coach Ray DeLeon and the Houston Banditos. Kacy is joined on the Banditos' roster by fellow PG All-Americans right-hander Kohl Stewart (2013, St. Pius X HS, Texas) and outfielder Nicholas Banks (2013, Tomball HS, Texas), along with a lot of other top prospects.
The Banditos won the PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., a couple of weeks ago and entered this tournament as one of the top teams to beat.
"It's fun with these guys," Kacy said. "I'm really getting to know the guys well, and when we won the 17u
World Wood Bat, we kind of meshed there. We haven't played our best here yet, but we're trying to string some things together these next few days and try to make a run for it."
Kacy praised Houston Banditos founder DeLeon and the efforts he puts forth to make sure all of his players get the optimum exposure in front of college recruiters, coaches and MLB scouts.
"Everybody's dream here is to get to the next level and eventually the next level after that," Kacy said. "Ray has put together a great team and it's so much fun to play with these guys because we have so much talent. If we play well, it's fun to watch."
Kacy Clemens was putting on a eye-opening performance at the PG WWBA 17u National worthy of the all-tournament recognition he would eventually receive when he was summoned to the main tower at the East Cobb Baseball Complex and officially invited to the PG All-American Classic.
"The hair was standing up on the back of my neck, I was so excited," Kacy said. "It's awesome to be able to go out (to San Diego). It's the best high school players in the country and it's an honor to be asked to play. I'm just excited to get out there; it's going to be such a fun experience."
The Banditos won their first three games at the PG WWBA 17u National Championship, then lost their fourth pool-play game to Gatorball Baseball Academy, 2-1, a game in which Kacy pitched. That served as a wake-up call and the Banditos (11-1) won eight straight, including a victory over the Alabama Seminoles in the championship game.
All of the Clemens boys came of age in major league clubhouses, and Kacy fondly remembers following his dad around while carrying a small equipment bag or toting a bucket of balls for his dad. He said that Roger first demands excellence in the classroom, but also helps him in his pursuit of baseball excellence, if that's what he wants to pursue.
Roger offers support and instruction - some of it instructive criticism - but is never goes overboard.
"He never pushes me (into baseball)," Kacy said. "If I get sick of the game and I don't want to play, he wouldn't say, 'Get out there and go; I want you to play.' He'll just say, 'OK, get your work done in the classroom and be successful there."
Roger Clemens sounds like a proud father who is enjoying himself immensely as he watches his sons pursue their passion for baseball, a passion undoubtedly handed down from him.
"They love the game of baseball, as I did, and it's an awesome game and these are awesome events," he said. "You see a lot of really nice kids and really good baseball players that are chasing their dreams. It just tells you how strong the game is when there are events like (the ones) Perfect Game puts on. It's fun for me to come out and watch good baseball."
The 17u PG World Series has brought together 16 of the very best 17u teams from all corners of the country, and the competition and level of play has been first-rate. Dozens of college recruiters and scouts have shown up every day to watch more than 100 of the top prospects in the high school classes of 2013 and '14 show what they can do.
"There are so many scouts out here every single game and you never know who you're getting looked at by," Kacy said. "When you come out here you just have to play your game, and play the game hard and the right way. You play to the level of your competition, and if you're playing against a tough team (at the 17u PG World Series) you really have to play your best."
Kacy has not committed to a college yet, but said he's seriously considering TCU and Texas, the latter a place where Roger twice earned All-American honors. He is, however, also planning visits to Arkansas and the University of Miami.
For the rest of this week, Kacy, Roger and Debbie will sit back and enjoy the closing days of the 17u PG World Series. There was no Perfect Game when Roger was attending Spring Woods High School in Houston in the late 1970s before his glory years at the University of Texas.
On another scorcher of a morning in the Valley of the Sun, Roger Clemens was enjoying the experience.
"I think it's really neat. You'll not only follow the kids on Kacy's team forever because some of them might make it professionally, but the same thing goes for some of the other kids you'll see out here," he said. "It's great for the college coaches, and you'll see some of the professional scouts, too. It's just a really solid event."