I’ll be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to the annual NBC World Series that is contested annually in Wichita.
I’ve never made the 50-mile trip south on the Interstate to see what the tournament is all about and I’ve lived in McPherson for nearly 40 years.
I’m not a big follower of college baseball and I don’t track the semi-pro teams in Kansas. This is a tournament mainly for baseball purists.
But this year it might change. My curiosity was piqued when it was announced that a group of former Major League Baseball players are forming the Kansas Stars, highlighted by Roger Clemens and Chipper Jones.
Immediate reaction was mixed. Many were excited about the possibility of having former Major League players in the tournament, which has drawn lukewarm response in recent years and in need of an infusion of fresh air. Others were saying the “old-timers” would still have enough game left to make a mockery of the tournament as they would run through it unchallenged.
Some of the Major Leaguers are not that far removed from the show. Tim Hudson recently concluded his career with the San Francisco Giants. Adam LaRoche was actually going to play this year with the Chicago White Sox before getting into a dispute with management about his son being in the clubhouse and decided he’d just retire. It hasn’t been that long ago that Brad Penny and Rick Ankiel, the former St. Louis Cardinal, were still prominent.
You have to remember, many of these guys probably haven't thrown a baseball or picked up a bat in quite some time. And they're probably not training as rigorously as they did when they were playing.
Is anyone really expecting Clemens, at age 53, to go out and throw seven shutout innings? He hasn’t pitched since 2007 and is only being denied a spot in the Hall of Fame because of alleged use of steroids.
And you have to remember, he’ll be facing players who have been competing all summer and seen live pitching. No matter how much Clemens has continued to throw, he certainly can’t bring it anymore like his playing days. These college players are used to seeing 90-mph-plus pitching, so they won’t be totally intimidated.
The Stars have stocked their roster with plenty of pitching, including Hudson, Penny, former World Series hero Josh Beckett, Roy Oswalt, Ben Sheets, former Kansas City Royal Brett Tomko and former Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, just to name a few. My guess is the team will try to use about three or four pitchers a game, with nobody toiling more than two innings, three at the most.
I’m OK with these old pros playing, it's certainly a change of pace. If the Stars can go deep into the tournament, there will be a financial windfall because I’m guessing when they play, Lawrence-DuMont Stadium is going to be packed. Who wouldn’t want to see Clemens pitch again or Jones go yard?