Former Major League Baseball great Roger Clemens, 50, is heading back to the game for the first time in five years Saturday when he joins the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League—the same league to which Bridgewater's belong.
According to an article in the Connecticut Post, Clemens' comeback to the Atlantic League is a major milestone for the league and Chief Executive Officer Frank Boulton. It is also another file in what Clemens hopes is a National Baseball Hall of Fame career. Whether he makes it or not will be based on how voters vote for the pitching great, who has been plagued for years by allegations of the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Clemens, a seven-time CY Young Award winner, has been accused of using performance enhancing drugs, but he has never failed a drug test, and is expected to be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame in 2013, along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, according to an article in the New York Post.
Boulton, who created the Atlantic League, said in the Connecticut Post article that Clemens's appearance on the Texas team is just another example of the league providing a good alternative to the major leagues.
But it will also, he said, give the league a higher profile.
Representatives with the Somerset Patriots declined to comment on the allegations about Clemens using performance enhancing drugs, or if that could end up reflecting back on the Atlantic League itself.
But they did say it is an honor to play against a great like Clemens, which they may do when they are scheduled to face the Skeeters in two home games Sept. 12 and 13.
"He chose the Atlantic League due to existing relationships that he has with the Skeeters organization," said Patriots manager Sparky Lyle. "He's going to be facing a high level of comeptition, and it will be interesting to see how he does against the very talented players in the league. It certainly isn't going to be an easy task by any means."
Patrick McVerry, president and general manager of the Somerset Patriots, said the fact that Clemens will be playing with the Atlantic League has generated excitement among fans, and brought national attention to the league itself.
"Roger's name is one of the most recognizable in baseball history for his many accomplishments, and we all look forward to seeing how he performs in his starts for the Skeeters," he said.
Lyle said his team will prepare for the possible September games against Clemens in the same way they would for any other great pitcher who has played in the league.
"It's exciting that he's out on the mound, but you have to go out there and play the game, and do the things you are supposed to regardless of who you are facing," he said.
For Patriots pitcher Keith Ramsey, the fact that Clemens is coming to the league shows the caliber of the Atlantic League.
"It's what all the guys talk about with each other when they are here, how you want people to understand how good the players are in the Atlantic League," he said. "Having someone like Roger Clemens play here helps to legitimize what we are here for."
Still, Ramsey said, he knows Clemens will be difficult to play against, and he is excited for the challenge.
"I think every good athlete wants to prove themselves against the best, and Roger falls into that category," he said. "It looks like he keeps himself in good shape, and I don't care what his age is, he is going to be tough to face."
"You relish those opportunities as a competitor to go against someone like him," he added.