This is Part 2 of the interview that Craig Forde of Beyond Fenway and I recently did with New Hampshire’s Koby Clemens. In this part, we talk about leaving the Astros organization after seven seasons; how he handles professional ups and downs; and his family, including reaction to his father’s ongoing legal issues.
CF: Seven years in your hometown Astros system, now this is your first year in another organization. How’s that going for you? Has there been anything that’s tough to transition to?
The last few years I’ve been an everyday player, but this year I’m kind of filling in, playing a few different positions. Playing about one every three, every four games right now, but enjoying every opportunity I get and everything about this team and the guys I’m playing with. It’s a fun environment. I want to come up here and work and get better every day. It’s been great working with Sal, working with Nuns [hitting coach Jon Nunnally]. It’s really getting technically sound with my swing and approach and also really learning the ins and outs of what to be thinking when you’re playing defense. You’ve got to be thinking a lot. I’m lucky to be where I’m at right now. Some people think it would be a demotion to come back to Double-A after being in Triple-A last year, and being in a backup role, but sometimes you gotta take a step back and get my game back in order. Because I did struggle last year. I had a down year, and just gotta work hard and get back up on it.
BM: Two-thousand-nine you had a really good year. You said last year you had more of a rough year. Mentally, how do you balance yourself out with the highs and the lows like that?
Baseball’s one of the most mentally frustrating games because some days you’re gonna feel great, some days you’re not. You’re gonna be doing everything right and you’re still making outs, like hitting line drives right at people, and then you see the guy hitting after you hit like a broken-bat somehow squeaks through the infield for a knock and you’re just like, “What do I gotta do?”
It’s just such a long season. To play every day, you’ve got to take every at-bat and try not to give anything away, but always stay even keel. Don’t ever get too high and never get too low. Just stay that easy “stay the course” mentality, stay with the same routines, because if you put together a good routine of what you’re doing to get ready for the game, it’ll keep you in a good state of mind feeling comfortable and feeling where you need to be.
That’s what I’ve been doing a lot of this year. It’s tough to be ready to hit every day, playing once every three days, but I feel comfortable. I feel great in the box right now. It’s early right now and I’ve got a lot more at-bats to come, so I’m looking forward to it.
BM: You’ve played a bunch of different defensive positions. Where are you most comfortable when you’re in the field?
In the batter’s box? That’s where I would say I’m most comfortable. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable playing third and first, especially the last three years I’ve been playing first so I’m obviously more comfortable there now. Catching was fun, I was starting to get the hang of that. My first year was a zoo. Second year I was a lot more comfortable with it. Third [base], I just gotta stay confident over there. And then I gotta do some more work in the outfield if they keep sliding me out there. I gotta see more fly balls, which I’m gonna be doing. So I would say most comfortable, probably first and third, out of all the positions I’ve played. But I’m gonna keep getting work at all of them, just in case whatever happens. I joke around with Sal, I go back there and catch in between innings when our catcher’s getting ready, and he’s like, “Don’t think I won’t put you back there in an emergency.” And I’m like, “Matters.” But it’s been good. I’ve really had a lot of fun on this team. I really have.
CF: Couple more personal questions. First is regarding the upcoming trial for your father. You’ve been dealing with all this stuff, all these allegations, for the past couple years. How tough has that been for you and your family and how closely do you try to keep tabs on things like that?
I talk to my family – my mom, my dad, my brothers – pretty much every day, if not every other day, maybe with my younger brothers. But my mom and dad I pretty much talk to every day, and I talk to them about how everything’s going out there. I mean, we can’t really talk about it, but he gives me the ins and outs and how it’s all going. Like we’ve been saying all along, we’re gonna have our day in court and let the proceedings go on and tell our side of the story. Not that we were not close before, but we’ve become even closer now and really have a great unit of family and friends at home. You see all the stuff on the TV and you just think, “Oh, it’s gotta be miserable.” We’re at home being ourselves still. We’re just living our lives. My dad comes and sees me in spring training, my pops goes back home to watch my other brothers play. [laughs] In our Mid-Life Crisis Room at my dad’s house, it’s a garage-turned-karaoke room, basically, and we’ll go out there and sing some songs some free nights, some weekends and have some good times. But like I said, we’ll have our day, and we’re gonna get through this and we’re gonna be fine.
CF: The second question is regarding last winter, the Puerto Rican league that you were in and you had left the team. I was reading up on that and there doesn’t seem to be anything from your side of it. Do you care to give any information about what happened?
I talked to a reporter this spring about it and I just said it had nothing to do with the league, had nothing to do with my team, my manager or anything. I was in a great situation. Had to do with something personal, and just was uncomfortable and that’s basically the best I can put it. Talked to my family about it, came home, and I apologized to the team. I didn’t get paid for whatever I was out there for. I enjoyed myself while I was out there, just something personal happened and I had to go home. That’s pretty much all I can say.
BM: You’re the oldest of the four boys. I was wondering what your brothers are up to. Are they involved in baseball? Are they looking to get involved in baseball?
Yeah, my two younger brothers are involved in sports at the high school. Youngest brother’s a freshman, my other brother’s a junior who’s starting to get really competitive, really looked at hard, pitching and I don’t know what he’s gonna play defensively. Hits lefty, throws righty. He’s been working third and first, mostly, the last couple years, but I don’t particularly know what he’s gonna play on defense. They’re really looking at him more so as a pitcher. Kody, he’s my youngest [brother], he’s gonna be fine. Whatever he chooses to play he’s gonna be good at. That’s the kind of athlete he is. Nothing fazes that kid. He’s tough as nails.
My brother Kory had some injuries in high school, blew out both of his knees playing football. Just a run of bad luck of injuries. He’s a big boy, almost 6-foot-3, almost 300 pounds. Little top-heavy now but he was a big D tackle when he was in high school. He wasn’t bad at baseball, he was like your classic lefty that can get guys out throwing. He went to culinary school in Austin and he’s working at a restaurant in Houston called Ragin’ Cajun. He learned how to cook at culinary school, now he’s at a family friend’s restaurant kind of learning the managerial side, the business side. Eventually down the road he wants to start a restaurant in Houston, see where he can go with that. But he loves to cook, and he does a lot of baking cake stuff. He loves all that stuff. His food’s really good. I don’t know how healthy it is, but it’s really good.
CF: Did you guys all go to the same high school?
Yeah, we all went to Memorial High School, and my mom’s got a new website, I think it actually came out today. She’s doing the stuff on her website, JacketHappy, all for the foundation. It goes to charities and stuff, raises money. She’s getting into that, she loves it. Not to mention she’s really into golf. She’s been winning like the women’s trophies you win at your club, she’s been killing at all those. She just golfs and goes into work at the office, back and forth.
CF: Is she taking down some of your trophies to make room for hers?
Yeah. She’s not afraid. I’m not kidding, she’s got a lot now. It’s getting kinda out of control. We were like, “Eh, she’s kinda good.” No, she’s getting really good.
CF: Have you golfed against her? Do you golf?
I’m one of the guys that I’ll go golf, but as soon as I make it competitive, I just bleep the bed bad. Because I’m one of the guys like, “Yeah, I’ll go play golf. Let’s play scramble, you know, whoever’s the best ball in the middle we’ll all hit from there.” Because I can’t hit it straight every time. But I like to go out and have a couple beers on the golf course. My dad, he gets, “Alright, I’m gonna give you a certain amount of strokes,” because my dad’s like a five handicap. Then I actually try to play to his level and I just fall apart.
I think golf will be a sport I pick up after I’m done playing baseball. I gotta worry about hitting a baseball rather than – I don’t wanna worry about hitting both.
CF: Any state titles for you in high school, in either football or baseball?
No, no state titles. My senior year was the first team to go undefeated in district, we went 14-0. It was the first Memorial team to do that, and we went the furthest at the time in the high school’s history. We went to the regional semifinals, that was like the greatest at the time. Now the classes afterwards, it’s been amazing how many guys have been coming out of Memorial the last four or five years. Kevin Ahrens was on our team, he was a first-rounder in ’07. He was a sophomore when I was a senior. There’s been a lot of guys from ’05 to now. There’s been a lot of D-I guys coming out of there, lot of high school signees. They’ve been producing quite a bit so the baseball program’s really on the up-and-up. They blew by my records. All the stuff I had, it’s [gone].