A few Texas college baseball icons stopped by for the SABR 44 College Baseball Panel on July 31, 2014, at the Royal Sonesta Houston.
Roger Clemens, a star pitcher at the University of Texas who went on to win 354 games and seven Cy Young Awards in the major leagues, was joined by Mike Gustafson, president and CEO of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and Lamar University coach Jim Gilligan.
The panel was moderated by SABR member Mike Vance.
- Video: Click here to watch the SABR 44 College Baseball Panel (YouTube)
- Audio: Click here to listen to the SABR 44 College Baseball Panel (56:26; 56.1 MB)
Here are some highlights of the panel:
ON THE NEW BATS IN COLLEGE BASEBALL
- Clemens: “I didn’t like it, even as a pitcher, that the home run was taken away from the game a little bit. I bought into the idea after watching from afar that you had to win the inning. Bunt him over, get him in. … But I’d like to see them all go to wood bats, if the cost is right. I wouldn’t mind seeing that eventually get into the high school level. You can see the difference in their hand strength and their form (after swinging wood bats for a summer.)
- Gilligan: “The problem I have with metal bats now is they’re so easy to tamper with. You’ve got guys who have bats that are similar to what they had 10 years ago by taking the rings out inside. And there’s no way to tell, if you got up as a hitter and you hit a grand slam, and the top came off and the rings weren’t in there, there’s nothing in the rules that says your home run is taken back. … There needs to be some type of penalty for people who use illegal bats.”
ON BEING RECRUITED IN HIGH SCHOOL
- Clemens: “I was really the third-best pitcher on my team. I didn’t throw very hard, and we had some 19-year-old seniors who threw hard. I’ve always been a power pitcher, not a power thrower, and it’s a big difference. … I threw strikes and had a little-bitty curveball. … I was a 17-year-old senior, and I was very young, so some of the four-year schools were intimidating. My father passed away when I was 9, and my mother raised six of us. But my mother loved sports, thank goodness, and encouraged me to play.”
ON RECRUITING AT A SMALL UNIVERSITY
- Gilligan: “A major league scout, if you’re looking for a middle infielder, you want them to run 6.8 or below; you want corner (outfielders) to be big, strong kids; you want a center fielder that’s a burner who can really cover ground. We want the same thing, but we just don’t get it! … I go into New York because I can offer weather [in Texas.] But usually, at a Lamar, we’re going to have to take a kid who is missing a tool. Someone who comes to mind is Kevin Millar. … I saw his stats, and I knew he was a good hitter. But I had him work out, and he [took] about 20 ground balls and Kevin caught about four of them and wore the others on his face and chest. … He was just tough off the charts. I loved him. … We have to find guys that have that burning desire, something about them that’s different.”
ON COACHING TODAY’S AMATEUR PLAYERS
- Gustafson: “I think kids now get more instruction at a younger age and, if anything, some of them need to kind of pull back [on it]. ‘How’s my front side?’ Hey, you’re 14 years old. Quit worrying about your front side. Just play. Back in my day, when you got meaningful instruction from someone who really knew something it was a rarity. Now they get a lot of information coming at them. Quality stuff, but there’s so much available … get out of your head. See ball, hit ball.”
ON WINNING THE COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
- Clemens: “When you win a championship and you get some distance, there’s friendships and memories forever, whether you’re looking at your ring or you go to the alumni games. … I had some great teammates all the way through. … Simply put, I took a step down leaving the University of Texas; no, I’m kidding. We won the championship and even back then at Rosenblatt, there were 20 or 22,000 fans. At one point, they roped off the sidelines and put the fans down by the side warning tracks. Two weeks later, I found myself in Winter Haven, Florida, and there were 11 people in the stands and I could see the guy in the red shirt calling me a bum. There’s a difference there.”
For more coverage of SABR 44, visit SABR.org/convention.
Originally published: July 31, 2014. Last Updated: April 16, 2020.