It happened again today.
There I was minding my own business in the press box at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, covering the College World Series. Some would say I’m extremely focused on my work. Others, who know me, would tell you I am completely oblivious to my surroundings.
I had to jump on the elevator so I could meet someone who covering the CWS for the first time. My plan was to grab them outside the elevator, bring them up to the media level, show them where everything is and then jump back onto the elevator so I could head to the field and shoot some photos of the start of the game.
Moving past the security I hopped on the media elevator (which BTW is 10 billion times faster than the old elevator at Rosenblatt). When the door opened on the ground level I saw the guy I was looking for and waved for him to come up with me. Three other people got on the elevator with the person I was waiting for and at first I paid no attention to them.
DING – Door Closes
I finally survey our new friends in the box. Then I notice, “huh, that guy that in the corner is a pretty big dude.”
Then I notice, “huh, he must be here for Texas because he has a burnt orange polo on.”
Then I notice, “huh, that’s a different sort of hat he’s wearing. There’s no team on it…it just says “Rocket”.
Then…it all clicked and I had a true “holy crap” moment.
DING – Floor Two
I literally had ten seconds to think of something clever, witty and memorable to say. This is one of the greatest pitches of all time, literally two feet from me. TWO FEET. I was close enough to smell him but couldn’t because I’m stuffed up. If I could smell him, I’m sure it would be the scent of “real man” cologne. Like a mixture of fresh cut wood and engine grease. Man stuff.
My inner monologue was something like “Oh-My-God-You-Are-The-Rocket-I-Played-RBI-Baseball-With-You-I-Saw-You-Pitch-As-A-Yankee-I-Used-To-Pretend-I-Was-You-Throwing-At-A-Shed-On-A-Farm-You-Are-In-Great-Shape-How-Much-Do-You-Bench-Will-You-Be-My-Friend-We-Should-Go-Get-Drinks-Tonight-Can-I-Live-With-You-No-That’s-Silly-But-Seriously-Can-I!”
DING – Floor Three
The door opens and Roger (I call him Roger, cause we’re boys now) thanks the attendant. He step toward the door and Adam Sandler’s voice from Billy Madison popped into my head screaming “YOU BLEW IT.”
I opened up my mouth and blurted out the first thing that came to my mind, “Uh. . Nice to …uhhh…have you in Omaha.”
Roger (remember, boys) gave a very polite, “It’s nice to be here,” and stepped off on the VIP level. (Surprising, I know.)
As soon as the door shut I announced to everyone on the elevator “Oh my God that was Roger Clemens!?!?!?” To which three other people looked at me… paused…and said, “Holy crap that was him wasn’t it!”
We all exchanged quick remarks about the experience and then moved on. I clearly was the one person on the elevator that was the most impressed by the encounter.
Understand this: I grew up on baseball hardcore starting in 1985. I had baseball cards, I played RBI Baseball like it was my job and I read the box scores in the sports section like they were the secret to making a million dollars. To this day there is a shed on my parent’s farm that has MASSIVE dents from me pitching into it as a kid.
I loved that era of ball player, so this run in with Clemens…sorry…Roger (boys) was a pretty cool thing for me. If it was George Brett on that elevator I would have had to wait a week to write this article because they would have had to pry me off the ceiling.
Clemens is one of the absolute best pitchers ever and I am leaving it at that. Everyone else can have those endless discussions about PEDs, HGH and steroids. In my lifetime, he was one of the absolute best in the game and I am stoked to have run into him.
Yes, I sound like a fan boy/freak right now. But you have to understand that after all of my years covering sports and being around teams there aren’t many times that I run into someone and get excited. This was one of those rare occasions.
Unfortunately for me, as of tomorrow, the Clemens family will probably request I stay a minimum 50 feet away from Roger.