July 15, 2020

A Familiar Name; Clemens, Son Koby, That Is, Catches Sugar Land Staff, Sets Home Run Record

August 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

So much has been said about the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters in their first two seasons—gorgeous stadium and outstanding attendance, dominant pitching, national spotlight when Roger Clemens made two appearances, player sales left and right to major league organizations and this year Gary Gaetti’s club has been the best the Atlantic League has to offer.

Almost unnoticed in all of the commotion is that Clemens’s son, Koby, who got his release from the Toronto farm system in time to catch his famous father in the second of his ballyhooed starts late last season, has stepped into the regular catching job this summer and has topped off the performance with a club-record 20 home runs plus a team-leading 58 RBI despite only a .225 average.

“Too bad he wasn’t converted (from mostly being a corner infielder) earlier,” Skeeters pitching coach Jeff Scott told me earlier this season.  Still, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound backstop is only 26 even though he is in his ninth professional season, and Gaetti, who saw enough top-flight catching in his lengthy major league playing career to know something about it, praised Clemens when the season started to the Houston Business Journal:  ”When he came in to catch last year, he looked really good behind the plate.  For me, he looked good enough to take a chance on and to be our guy to catch.”

In being behind the plate in well over half the games, Clemens has guided the Skeeters’ pitching staff to a 3.20 earned run average, nearly seven-tenths of a run better than any other team, with 10 shutouts and an opponent batting average of only .236.  Clemens has a .992 fielding percentage.

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New Jersey Bulks Up for Can-Am Stretch

It is the time of year when Independent teams within reach of championships start searching for players on other teams who may make the difference.  The Can-Am League’s New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls), who have lost the last two championship series to four-time champion Quebec and are in a tight battle for the second playoff berth behind the Capitales, appear to have struck the first significant blow by acquiring a standout hitter and quality pitcher from Kansas City, KS of the American Association.

Veteran Manager Joe Calfapietra added July Hitter of the Month Matt Padgett to play first base and bat third and Lucas Irvine, who owns the No. 2 earned run average, in exchange for four players to be named later to bolster the T-Bones’ 2014 roster.  Padgett led the American Association in slugging percentage (.704), on-base percentage (.466), extra-base hits (50) and total bases (178) at the time of the trade and has gone .337-19-66 for the season.  Irvine had a 2.96 ERA and a 6-5 record while ranking among the league’s best in strikeouts.

Attention Clinics:  Andrew Albers Is Your Guy

Andrew Albers surely will be a popular guest at baseball clinics this winter, and if the former Can-Am League lefty needs someone to endorse him then his boss, Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, seems ideal.

“I think we saw how pitching is supposed to be (done),” Gardenhire told the media after Albers’ second successive outstanding major league start.  “He doesn’t waste many pitches, moves the ball in and out, changes speed,” the skipper told The St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Albers, who was a standout reliever for the Quebec Capitales in 2010 when first coming back from elbow surgery, followed up his 8.1-inning scoreless major league debut with a complete-game shutout of playoff-hopeful Cleveland to become Minnesota’s first rookie in 35 years (Gary Serum) to hurl a nine-inning shutout of two or less hits.

Albers’ 17.1 scoreless innings to start a career is a team record for a starter, and it gives Minnesota two exceptional rookie performances from former Independent Baseball pitchers since lefty reliever Caleb Thielbar, who did his Indy stint in the shadows of Target Field for the St. Paul Saints (American Association), did not give up a run in his first 17 games covering 19.2 innings. 

By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star

Updated: 2013-03-26T05:37:57Z

       (This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball.  Forty columns are planned during 2013.  Fans may subscribe at reduced rates at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy added stories on the blog www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com.  The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)


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