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Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Rice coach recalls Clemens

June 15, 2003

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— Rice coach Wayne Graham had a special player in 1981. While coaching at San Jacinto-North Junior College, his first squad there featured a young pitcher named Roger Clemens.

The freshman helped Graham's club go 43-7 that season. Graham went on to win seven national junior-college championships before taking the Rice job 12 years ago.

Clemens went on to better things, too, earning All-American status in helping the Texas Longhorns win the College World Series in 1983, then becoming major league baseball's only six-time Cy Young Award winner.

"What I saw in him was he always threw strikes, he had great mechanics and a great body for a pitcher," Graham said. "He started out not throwing very hard but by the end of the spring he got to throwing about 91."

Clemens won his 300th game Friday with a 5-2 win over St. Louis and raised his career strikeout total to 4,006.

He is the 21st pitcher to win 300, and just the third to join Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Steve Carlton (4,136) with 4,000 strikeouts.

Graham remembers offering Clemens advice that improved his velocity.

"He matured and he also was not finishing hard, he was not driving at the end," Graham said. "He'll tell you I was constantly preaching to him to let it go, drive, drive. I said, 'Roger, you've got to let it go, drive, and if you do, I don't know if your arm will fall off.' It didn't fall off, did it?"

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Do as I say: Stanford coach Mark Marquess comes across as a pretty serious guy. He is focused, intense and competitive -- and his Cardinal players reflect that on the field.

But Marquess does not want to see his pitching staff emulating his own technique.

The 56-year-old lefty throws batting practice for his team, and cracked a smile when asked to critique his own pitching talents.

"Very overrated technique," Marquess said. "I've never iced in my life and I don't worry about technique. Just throw it over ... and have a screen in front of you."

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