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Clemens hopes to have fun in return to baseball

By Kristie Rieken
AP Sports Writer

POSTED: 04:48 a.m. HST, Aug 22, 2012

SUGAR LAND, Texas >> Hours after Roger Clemens agreed to join the Sugar Land Skeeters, he was back on the field playing in an over-50 softball league.

And the ultra-competitive Clemens, now a half-century old, was quick to point out just how well he did against that group of geezers.

"I hit two homers, by the way," he said.

Things will be a bit tougher on Saturday when he is scheduled to start for the independent Atlantic League team at home against Bridgeport. The right-hander agreed to play for the team on Monday and was introduced on Tuesday.

Whether this all leads to Clemens pitching in the major leagues — the seven-time Cy Young Award winner played that down, conceding he's nowhere near big league pitching shape.

"I'm 50 years old. We're just going to go out and have fun with this and make it fun for the fans," said Clemens, who has a touch of gray stubble on his chin but still sports a shock of blond highlights in his hair.

Clemens didn't understand all the rules of his old-man softball league at first. When he hit his first home run and dashed to first base, his teammates told him to stop. He thought it was because home runs weren't allowed. It turned out that the over-50 set doesn't see the need to run all of the bases on a homer.

"I really play in that league for the exercise and the fun," he said.

He laughed off questions about playing professionally at an age when he qualifies for an AARP card.

"I hope nothing breaks and I hope I don't pull anything," a still fit-looking Clemens said.

Some believe his return to the minor leagues is the first step to another comeback in the major leagues, where he last pitched for the New York Yankees in 2007 at age 45. Clemens is set to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot going to voters late this year. If he plays in a major league game this year, his Hall consideration would be pushed back five years.

He isn't sure how he'll be perceived by voters when his name appears on the ballot.

"Sure, the Hall of Fame is great, I've told people that. But it's not going to change my life either way," he said. "But if there's something there that somebody feels like they have a grudge or want to hold something against you, I can't control that one bit."

Clemens said thinking about a big league comeback is premature.

He dismissed the theory that the minor league appearance was a step on the path to a big league return.

"I've been to the major leagues and back a couple of times," he said. "I've retired and unretired, so I wouldn't consider thinking that far ahead. I'm just going to try to get through Saturday. I think I can compete a little bit."

A return at his age wouldn't be all that outlandish, considering that Jamie Moyer returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery to start for the Colorado Rockies this season. Clemens chuckled when asked about Moyer.

"People are trying to ingrain that in my mind that 50 is now the new 40," he said. "But I'm not buying it because I'm still having to pack myself in a lot of ice."

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