By now, it’s become tradition that the New York Yankees have an annual Old Timer’s Day to bring back not only unforgettable Hall of Famers who helped engineer World Series runs, but other players who served their time in pinstripes — well, some played well, and others were forgettable. More and more teams are starting to have similar days where former legends are honored, but none really have a day like the Yankees’ Old Timer’s Day where the players actually suit up and play a small scrimmage.
That is, until Nate Robertson came along. A former left-handed pitcher with the Detroit Tigers (though he also had two stints with the Florida Marlins and one with the Philadelphia Phillies), Robertson has helped organize the Kansas Stars, a team that will play in the upcoming National Baseball Congress World Series. Now, that sounds interesting and all, but that’s not even the best part.
If you ever wanted to see some of your favorite players pitch and hit one more time in a meaningful game, the Kansas Stars are a dream come true as their 25 man roster consists of 24 ex-MLB players. All-Stars, World Champions, and even a couple future Hall of Famers will be suiting up for Robertson, including a former fireballer who hails from the Lone Star State.
Robertson, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2010 for the Phillies, explained his rationale to the Wichita Star.
“I started calling some of the former (Detroit) Tigers that I played with, and then a guy would call another guy. Most recently, Roger Clemens is going to be one of our pitchers and Josh Beckett reached out to him. (The roster) just kind of got some legs to it, and here we are… We’re kind of getting guys prepped to go three innings, max. I’ve heard Roger is going to come in here and try to throw five. I guess he’s still a machine. These guys wouldn’t sign up if they were going to go out and embarrass themselves, so I think their bodies are capable.”
Adam LaRoche, a former Silver Slugger with the Washington Nationals who made national news for quitting the Chicago White Sox this past spring due to the team banning his son from the clubhouse, went on to add the following.
“I put out a feeler, a text message, and I was blown away at the response. And I mean, right away, guys responding and were really excited about it, wanting more and more information. I think something about being out of the game, whether it’s for a couple months or a couple years, not having that competition is what guys so excited to get back out and play the game… I picture this being more of a backyard, group-of-guys get-together to go have a lot of fun and compete. Kind of bring back that feeling that we all had in high school and college and the minor leagues, when everybody is truly pulling in the same direction and pulling for each other and, win or lose, just enjoying it and having a good time.”
Andy LaRoche, Adam’s brother and a former big league third baseman who played for four separate teams from 2007-13, played with Robertson for an NBC Alumni team last year and reported nothing but positive things to his older brother. Robertson also made it clear that if the Stars win, they’ll donate the prize money to charity.
The roster reads as follows (italics denote All-Star).
Pitchers: Josh Beckett, Roger Clemens, Justin Germano, Tim Hudson, Jason Isringhausen, Ryan Kohlmeier, Roy Oswalt, Brad Penny, Nate Robertson, Ben Sheets, Brett Tomko
Catchers: Koyie Hill, Koby Clemens
Infielders: Brandon Inge, Adam LaRoche, Jayson Nix, Pete Orr, Dan Uggla, Jack Wilson
Outfielders: Rick Ankiel, J.D. Drew, Carl Everett, Ryan Langerhans, Lance Nix, Barry Wesson
And now, just as you try to remember why Lance Nix and Brett Tomko sound so familiar, here are some obscure — but neat — facts relating to this 25-man roster.
- There are two groups of players on this team who are related in some way: Roger Clemens will likely be pitching to his son Koby, while brothers Jayson and Lance Nix team up for the first time together. Two players on this team actually played alongside their brothers on the same team in the big leagues: J.D. Drew in 2004 with the Atlanta Braves and brother Tim and Adam LaRoche with his brother, Andy, in 2008 on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
- Only one pitcher on this team, Josh Beckett, has thrown a no-hitter in the big leagues. But, what’s more of an impressive accomplishment: Beckett’s no-no, or Roger Clemens’ seven one-hitters?
- Of all the All-Stars on this list, just J.D. Drew came away with an All-Star Game MVP award; that being in the 2008 All-Star Game, which went fifteen innings in the old Yankee Stadium’s final midsummer classic.
- Sticking with more “only ones,” Clemens is the only Cy Young Award winner out of the pitchers, though Beckett did finish second in 2007 to Cleveland Indians left-hander C.C. Sabathia.
- Several players on this roster have won a World Series, but only one of them wasn’t a pitcher. That man? J.D. Drew, who hit.292 with a homer and eleven RBI during the Red Sox’ World Series run in 2007. Oh, and that one home run was pretty big.
- Clemens and Beckett are the only two-time World Series winners on this list, with Clemens winning two in 1999 and 2000 with the New York Yankees. Beckett, on the other hand, helped upset Clemens’ Yankees in 2003 with the then-Florida Marlins and also won a ring in 2007 with the Red Sox.
- The oldest player on this list who played in the big leagues, obviously, is Clemens. The youngest is another former Yankee in Jayson Nix. When Clemens pitched his final game for the Yankees in October, 2007, Nix had yet to hit the big leagues — at all.
- In October 1986, Roger Clemens was pitching in the World Series with the Boston Red Sox against Darryl Strawberry and the New York Mets. No other player on this list was even playing high school baseball in 1986!
The Stars play their first game at 9:30 p.m. on August 6, during the second week of pool play.
[Photo by David Goldman/AP Images]