- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Clemens boosted Schilling's career

SEATTLE Ten years ago, Curt Schilling was a struggling 24-year-old pitcher for the Houston Astros after a three-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles. Roger Clemens was only five years his elder but had already established himself as one of the game's premier pitchers with the Boston Red Sox.

So imagine Schilling's shock when he found out one day in 1991 at the Astrodome that Clemens, a Houston native, wanted to meet him.

"I was kind of wandering around the weight room, just passing time, and our hitting coach said Roger wanted to have a few minutes of my time," Schilling said. "I went over to his side of the weight room, and about an hour and 15 minutes later, with no butt, I walked back to the other end of the weight room.

"He thought enough of me, or the game as much as anything, to take an hour out of his day and talk with me about my approach and what I wasn't doing and what he felt I needed to do. On the way home from the game that day, I looked at the game tremendously different. Over the years, I've incorporated a lot of what he said about how I approach this job and this life and my respect for the game."

Ten years later, Clemens and Schilling will start against each other in tonight's All-Star Game.

"We had a conversation a long time ago about where our careers were kind of going in Houston," Clemens recalled yesterday. "What he's done since has just been remarkable, so I'm happy and proud for him."

Both pitchers lead their respective leagues in victories, with Schilling owning a 12-4 record for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Clemens posting a 12-1 start for the New York Yankees. And both spoke fondly of their meeting in Houston.

"My career turned around immediately after that," said Schilling, who went on to become a star with the Philadelphia Phillies before his trade last summer to Arizona. "I'm very grateful, and always have been, that he took the time in his career to make a point to talk to me."

Bobby vs. Cliff

NL manager Bobby Valentine tried to downplay the supposed rift between him and Florida Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd, who claims Valentine informed him last week that he would make the All-Star team only to leave him off the roster. In the end, Floyd did wind up in Seattle when Valentine included him as a reserve after Mets pitcher Rick Reed was dropped because of an injury.

Asked yesterday what the first thing he would say to Floyd would be, Valentine replied, "Probably, 'Congratulations, welcome, let's go get 'em.' What do you think I'm going to say? What would make a good story?"

Valentine insisted he did not feel pressured to add Floyd to the roster when Reed went down. Feeling his team needed another outfielder instead of another pitcher, Valentine went with Floyd.

Welcome home

The host Seattle Mariners are receiving all the attention this week, not only because of the record eight players they have on the AL roster, but because of the high-profile ex-Mariners who are making their return.

Randy Johnson, easily the greatest pitcher in Mariners history, received a rousing welcome from the crowd at Safeco Field during yesterday's team workouts despite the Diamondbacks cap he was wearing.

The same can't be said for shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who was booed unmercifully while he took batting practice yesterday and will likely get another hearty Safeco greeting tonight. Seems the local fans still haven't come to grips with that $250 million contract A-Rod signed with the Texas Rangers last winter.

Seattle fans are perfectly happy to point out the fact that their team has baseball's best record at the break, while Rodriguez's Rangers are toiling away 28 games behind the Mariners in the AL West. Texas catcher Ivan Rodriguez stood up for his teammate yesterday, though.

"We're in last place as a team," Rodriguez said. "It's not because of him."

Air time for Washington

Pat Malone, president of the Washington Senators Fan Club and most recently a local representative for minor league baseball impresario Mike Veeck, has taken a page from the Veeck family book of promotions.

Malone has hired a plane to fly over Safeco Field before tonight's All-Star Game with a banner reading: "Pat Malone Says Baseball in DC 2002!" The plane will make at least six passes over the stadium directly after the opening ceremonies.

"This is simply a statement on behalf of Washingtonians that the time has finally come to return major league baseball to the nation's capital," Malone said. "The time has come to step up to the plate."

Malone is not affiliated with either of the two bidding groups formally seeking a Washington area team. He has worked with Veeck, son of the legendary Bill Veeck, to try to bring a Northern League team to RFK Stadium as a stopgap measure. But as a long activist to see the Senators replaced after 30 years, Malone said his clear preference is a major league team.

"It's just a no brainer," he said. "I think people here understand the reality of the situation. We just need to keep hammering that message."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig does not favor team relocations before a new labor deal with the players' union is reached. But his office has spent the past year studying several prospective relocation markets, including Washington.

Extra bases

All-Star games produce some unconventional lineups, but you may never again see something as odd as Luis Gonzalez with 35 home runs and a major league-best 86 RBI leading off and Todd Helton with 84 RBI batting second. Valentine, who unveiled his NL lineup yesterday, explained the method to his madness as a desire to give the under-appreciated Gonzalez more than two at-bats. "That's why I'm batting him leadoff," Valentine said, "so the national audience can see him." …

Joe Torre's AL lineup includes leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki, surprise cleanup hitter Bret Boone (22 homers, 84 RBI) and No. 9 batter Ivan Rodriguez. "That's a pretty good team when you have Pudge batting ninth," Torre said… .

Schilling, on the possibility of striking out Japanese sensation Suzuki: "I'm pretty sure that every TV in Japan will be tuned into the game. One of the things a veteran pitcher told me a long time ago is that as an opposing pitcher, you have the ability to shut up a stadium. I have the ability to shut up a country for a few minutes."

• Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

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