PORTLAND — A free agent named Clemens signs with the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization … where have I heard this before?
Sixteen years after his father left the Boston Red Sox for the Blue Jays, infielder Koby Clemens is playing baseball for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Toronto’s Double-A affiliate.
Clemens, 25, made his first Hadlock Field appearance Monday, although he did not play in the first Fisher Cats-Sea Dogs game of the year.
Still, being the son of Roger Clemens brings attention, including another interview in a new town.
“I’m used to it,” said Clemens before the game. “Growing up with my dad being a superstar player, I learned. I’m very comfortable (with the attention).”
The attention his father is getting these days is not the kind anyone desires. Roger Clemens is currently on trial in federal court for allegedly committing perjury when he testified to Congress in 2008 that he never used steroids.
“They’re having their day in court right now. They’re going through the process when it’s all said and done, hopefully the truth will prevail,” Koby Clemens said.
Is the trial a distraction?
“It’s a lot easier this year as compared to ’08, when it first was getting serious,” he said. “Our skin has become a lot thicker. Our family has become close.
“I just try to think about playing baseball and having fun with my second family here.”
Koby Clemens has always equated baseball with fun. His early years were spent in Framingham, Mass., playing in a big backyard and then heading to Fenway to watch dad pitch.
When Roger Clemens signed the big contract with Toronto, the family moved from Framingham to a hotel — which was connected to the Blue Jays’ baseball stadium.
“I loved it out there,” Koby said. “We lived in the Skydome. Late, after games, we’d sneak down the room service elevator, go down to the field and play home run derby or a game in the outfield. We’d put towels down (for bases). It was awesome.”
When Koby was 12, the Blue Jays traded his father to the Yankees. He was at Fenway Park when Rogers Clemens pitched to a hostile crowd in the 1999 playoffs.
“That was the game I got my hat taken off my head while I was walking to the bathroom, and it got chucked,” Clemens said, smiling with a shrug. “It’s the rivalry.
“I’m so used to the booing from being on the road. That’s just part of baseball.”
He has heard it all as a fan, and now as a player.
“Sometimes it’s good, especially in New Hampshire. Lot of support for my dad,” he said. “In some different towns, you’re going to have some people heckling you. They pay their money, they can do what they want. It just comes with baseball.”
Koby Clemens was an eighth-round draft pick in 2005 by the Astros, who were also employing his father at the time.
In the minors, Clemens became friends with another 2005 draft pick, former Monmouth Academy and University of Southern Maine pitcher Tip Fairchild. “One of my favorite teammates,” Clemens said.
Clemens moved through the minors and reached Triple-A last year with the Astros, batting .234. He was granted free agency after the season and signed with the Blue Jays.
“They gave me the best opportunity,” said Clemens, who is batting .162, with a .311 on-base percentage through 13 games. The numbers, nor anything else, don’t seem to bother Koby Clemens.
“I’m playing the game or cheering on my teammates, and having fun with it,” he said.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: [email protected]