Although his father worked for the FBI and he bounced around the country growing up, Houston Astros reliever Paul Clemens considers the Washington area his hometown. He moved here in seventh grade and stayed until he graduated from Robinson in Fairfax. “Maybe one day I’ll come back and bring my kids and my wife and live in Northern Virginia somewhere,” said Clemens, who plans to spend next winter in Houston.
So with the Astros in town to face the Nationals, the series held special meaning for 26-year-old Clemens: it is the first trip to the area as a major leaguer. He was called up by the Astros last season, and has bounced between the majors and minors since.
The closest he had gotten to Washington with the Astros was an early May trip to Baltimore. But this week, he got to see family and friends. His father and mother — who both moved 90 minutes away to Oxford, Pa., when Clemens was drafted in 2008 — came to Nationals Park. His brother, sister and extended family were expected, too. Friends from him time here were also planning to attend.
Clemens said his former high school coach, Bill Evers, and pitching coach, John James, came to Tuesday night’s game against the Nationals.
“It’s fun to be back around family and the area I grew up in and all that good stuff,” he said.
After Robinson, Clemens attended Louisburg College and then was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He was traded to the Astros in 2011 as part of the Michael Bourn deal. Clemens, who throws a fastball that sits around 92 mph, a change-up and cutter, made his major league debut on April 9, 2013.
Clemens is one of only a handful of players from Robinson to reach the majors; Javier Lopez of the San Francisco Giants and Shawn Camp, who spent parts of 11 seasons in the majors but is with the Phillies’ Class AAA affiliate now are also Robinson graduates.
This season, Clemens has struggled. He has a 5.16 ERA through 22 2/3 innings and posted 5.40 ERA over 73 1/3 innings last season.
It has been “a little hectic,” he said. “My arm is trying to adapt to being up and down, and having days off. When you get sent down, you have three days. My arm has been challenged a little bit. As far as baseball, it’s just baseball to me. Big leagues is where you want to play and it’s special and an honor to be here. You don’t want to make it more than what it is, and it’s pitching and baseball.”