By Bobbie O’Brien
Koby Clemens is in his eighth season in the minor leagues. He was drafted at age 18 by the Houston Astros to play third base. He’s also played at first base and catcher hoping his versatility will help him make the jump to the big leagues where his father, Roger Clemens, spent 24 years as an ace pitcher.
“My dad taught me that nothing comes easy,” Koby said. “The biggest thing my dad has always taught me is it doesn’t matter if you want to be a professional athlete, a doctor or garbage disposer. If you want to be the best at it, you’ve got to work your butt off, and nothing comes easy.”
And it hasn’t been easy for Clemens. Instead of moving him to the “bigs,” the Astros released him last year. Clemens played with the Double-A Fisher Cats in New Hampshire before signing as a free agent with the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays this season. There, he has sharpened his catching skills under the watchful eye of manager Mike Redmond, who spent 13 years as an MLB catcher and was still behind the plate just two years ago. Redmond said Clemens remains positive and is a hard worker despite being sent down.
“I’m sure Koby would say the same thing: that he wants to earn it himself,” Redmond said. “I mean he’s a great kid he’s working hard. He’s willing to come back here and work on his catching, which shows a lot about him and his integrity.”
“I remember I was in Salem, Virginia, and I was just doing all my work and stuff and I asked the team to keep the TVs off just because I couldn’t do it,” he said. “It was my way to get away from it.”
Clemens declined to talk specifically about his father’s perjury trial in Washington, D.C. He admitted initially he was shaken up by criticism of his dad.
“The way he’s posted up like a bad guy now, in my opinion, is so far from the truth, and my dad would literally give you the shirt off his back to anybody, to help anybody out,” Clemens said. “That’s kind of person my dad has always been, and unfortunately it’s kind of gotten him in this predicament a little bit.”
There’s only one time Clemens has ever seen his father vulnerable. “I think the only time I ever saw emotion — bad emotion or something that kind of weakened him — was when his mom died in ’05,” he said. “I hadn’t seen my dad really break down and then he was just a little different for a few months after that because his mom was everything for him.”
Despite Roger Clemens’ recent difficulties, Koby says his dad remains a kid at heart. After officially retiring, Roger converted an old garage into a sound studio at the family’s Houston home.
“I call it the midlife crisis room and just to give him a hard time about it,” Koby said. “And mind you we’ve got a bunch of guitars, an electric keyboard, an electric drum set, four microphones and nobody in my family knows how to play an instrument. Nobody, nobody. So it’s basically a glorified karaoke room and you know what it’s awesome…he’s out there full heartedly singing it, and it’s one of the funniest things. He’s just a goofball.”
That’s a side of Roger Clemens that most don’t know. But Koby and the other Clemens sons — Kody, Kory and Kacy — know it. They were with their father on Tuesday during closing arguments at his trial and were described by one reporter as walking away together. One of them had his arm around Roger’s shoulders.