Roger Clemens led the American League in strikeouts five times during a playing career that spanned 24 seasons. The legacy of his strikeout success has lived on through his sons in a very unique manner.
The seven-time Cy Young winner has four sons, and all of their names start with the letter K. They are named Kody, Koby, Kacy, and Kory.
The youngest, Kody Clemens, is one of three brothers who have played professional baseball. And last season, at 26 years old, he became the first of the Clemens boys to wear a Major League uniform when he was called up in May by the Detroit Tigers.
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In January, Kody was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. While he already knew that a baseball life could present varying paths, Kody’s father, who had been famously moved from the Blue Jays to the Yankees before the 1999 season, confirmed that getting traded was simply a change of scenery.
“It was weird,” Kody told The Game Day Baseball of the trade. “But he didn’t have much advice other than it’s a new team, new faces, let’s get to work type of deal.”
Kody’s father maintains constant contact with the current Philadelphia first baseman. Kody said that they are always texting back and forth, and Roger will call him after games depending on what may have happened that night or day.
After hitting .319 with three home runs and 10 RBI in spring training, but being ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, Kody was well-prepared mentally for whatever road he might find himself on next. He understood the twists and turns of a baseball career, and his father was always ready to provide his voice of extensive experience in any situation.
“As much as I’ve seen the ups and downs on the business side of it, he really did in the big leagues for 24 years,” Kody said. “He just said keep playing the game you know how to play and keep your head down and the rest will fall into place.”
Roger was right. Things fell into place officially on April 7, when Kody was recalled by the Phillies. Darick Hall, who was projected to replace Rhys Hoskins (torn ACL) at first base, needed thumb surgery. Suddenly, there was a pressing need at the position in Philadelphia and an opportunity for Kody to compete for quality playing time.
“It was a lot faster than I thought,” he said of the promotion. “Obviously there were a couple of injuries that expedited my route. Unfortunately, you don’t want to hear that, but at the same time I was excited to come up and get back with the club.”
After hitting .145 with five home runs in 56 games with the Tigers in 2022, Kody has made the most of his chances to earn frequent playing time with the Phillies. In 30 games, he has hit .256 with four home runs, 10 RBI, and scored 13 runs.
In 2021 and 2022 at the Triple-A level, Clemens hit 31 home runs in 157 games. While the Tigers’ 2018 third-round draft pick has some power potential, he hasn’t been pressing to show off his pop at the MLB level.
“I don’t focus on power,” he said. “Home runs come on good swings. It’s not about a try-and-do-damage type swing, I just stay within myself and I hopefully catch it on the barrel.”
Taking over as a needed replacement option for the defending National League champions can be viewed as a daunting assignment. Playing in front of one of the most demanding fan bases in the sport can only add more pressure.
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But Clemens has embraced it all, especially the intensity of the Phillies’ dedicated followers.
“The Phillies fans are great,” he said. “Obviously they want to succeed and they will let you know how good or bad you are. It’s awesome playing in front of fans like that. It makes you want to perform better.”
Being able to remain level-headed can be traced back to Kody’s strong support system. His father is an obvious crux of the rich family foundation in baseball, yet his brothers have also helped shape his approach to the game.
Koby Clemens, who at 36 is the oldest of the brothers, played eight seasons as a corner infielder in the minor leagues, in the Astros’ and Blue Jays’ systems. Kacy Clemens, a first baseman and outfielder who is now 28 years old, spent three seasons as a minor leaguer in the Toronto organization.
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Kody said the Clemens brothers have developed unified perspectives on how to survive and thrive over the years.
“My older brothers were solid baseball players,” Kody said. “They’ve been through it. It’s a tough game. We all have a positive mindset.”
“We just try to keep the mind strong and positive because obviously, you’re playing a game of failure. You’ve just got to trust yourself and trust your ability.”
From an outsider’s view, Kody Clemens appears to favor a balanced outlook on what the game of baseball presents to him. He displays the aura of an athlete that doesn’t seem to get swayed by the highs or lows that he will experience throughout his career journey.
That sort of composed demeanor is undoubtedly cultivated by his father and family foundation. Not much seems to rattle Kody Clemens.
Yet if one wants to see him exude some excitement, all they have to do is mention the homers he hit in consecutive games at Minute Maid Park on April 29 and 30.
“That was awesome,” Kody said of playing in Houston, where he attended Memorial High School. “That was on my bucket list for sure.”
“To go home and play in front of my family and friends and the hometown team that I grew up watching, it was cool.”
Matt Gelb, who covers the Phillies for the Athletic, noted that Kody’s two-run home run on April 29 came on the same calendar day when his father struck out 20 batters for the Boston Red Sox in 1986.
For Roger, who named his sons after the strikeout, seeing Kody go deep was certainly an instance where he preferred the HR.