Detroit — The city of Detroit, be it old Tiger Stadium or Comerica Park, or his aunt’s house in Harper Woods, has been host to a lot of fond memories for Roger Clemens.
“Once I land in Detroit it almost feels like a second home,” said Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series champion. “My aunt lived here and I stayed in her basement I can’t tell you how many nights instead of the team hotel.
“Let’s see, I went for my 300th win here. Down the street I had my 20-strikeout game. Lot of good memories here in Detroit.”
The memory Detroit provided for him Tuesday night, though, might top them all. The entire Clemens family was on hand to see his youngest son Kody make his Major League debut.
“To see Kody in that uniform is pretty special,” Clemens said. “He’s pretty pumped up. Everybody is pretty happy. This is pretty special.”
Kody FaceTimed his father from a Home Depot in Ohio on Monday to give him the news.
“Pretty interesting,” Roger said, laughing. “I said, ‘Where are you guys at? Is that a Home Depot behind you?’ Lloyd (McClendon, Toledo manager) and them were standing right there and they both kind of told me at the same time. I mean, this is crazy.
“I’m just happy for him. He’s worked really hard to get here and it finally happened for him.”
Kody Clemens’ big-league debut comes at age 26 after four years and 325 games in the minor leagues. When his father was 26, he’d already won 95 games and two Cy Young Awards.
“They get on me all the time,” Roger said. “They say, ‘You don’t know nothing about riding buses.’”
That doesn’t mean he’s not fiercely proud of his son for persevering through his journey.
“I don’t expect it to be any different here,” Clemens said. “He makes other players around him better. He couldn’t care less about his stats. He wants to win. You are going to come to the ballpark every day. You’re here so you might as well win. That’s our little Knute Rockne thing we go through. You’re here, let’s friggin’ win. Find a way to do it.
“Because when you don’t, it gets really old really quick.”
Clemens has tried to reassure Kody that his talent will play at the big-league level. He’s told him, by now you’ve faced every fastball there is. You’ve seen all the breaking balls and sliders. He warned him that some pitchers have devastating off-speed pitches that might throw him off from time to time.
He warned him the game might seem really fast at times. But the more he plays, the more it will slow down.
He reminded his son, too, of all the access he had growing up around the game. When the news broke that he was being called up to Detroit, Kody got texts from such luminaries as Derek Jeter and Jeff Bagwell — teammates of his father who gave him advice when he was younger.
“I would just sit back and let them talk and listen to it,” Roger said. “If he asked me a pointed question I tried to answer it the best I could. But they’d get on me about my hitting. They’d say, ‘You don’t know crap about hitting, dad.’”
“I’d say, ‘Wait a minute now. I was a really good bunter.’”
On Monday, Roger Clemens was an unbelievably good travel agent. He arranged for his entire family, including Kody’s three brothers, to be at Comerica Park for the debut. He arranged for several of Kody’s college teammates to get here.
“We were in scramble mode, for sure,” he said. “But we’re here. Just so happy for him. The sky is the limit.”