Clemens' signing believed 'great for the game'
HOUSTON -- To say Houston Astros fans were excited that their team had signed future Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens would be an understatement.
The news about Clemens sparked a frenzy of season ticket sales that eclipsed a similar surge after Houston last month signed fellow hometown hero and pitcher Andy Pettitte, said John Sorrentino, vice president of ticket services.
"Probably in my 18 years in the business, this is the busiest we've been since the opening of Minute Maid Park," Sorentino said, though those calls included inquiries about parking and other issues. "These are all calls about season tickets."
He said the ticket staff hasn't been able to address all the requests, and hoped fans would be patient.
At the same time, some fans were cautious Monday about declaring the team World Series bound this season with Clemens and Pettitte now on the roster.
"We've got the hitting power. Now we've got the pitchers," Tony Anciso, 44, a plumber, said while playing pool at a sports bar near downtown. "This should put an exclamation point in front of the Astros for other teams to notice."
Clemens, 41, and the Astros agreed to a $5 million, one-year contract on Monday. He spent his first 13 seasons in Boston, then went to Toronto for two years before moving on for five seasons with New York, where he won World Series titles in 1999 and 2000.
Anciso's friend, David Villalpando, was all smiles Monday.
"This is the best news we've heard for some time," he said. "Now he's back to his roots, where he belongs."
Villalpando, who remodels homes, said he knows expectations will be high for Clemens to help lead the Astros to their first World Series.
"But if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen," he said. "It would be nice, don't get me wrong. I'm not going to cry over it."
Still Villalpando couldn't help but excitedly point at one of the bar's televisions when an image of Clemens putting on his new Astros jersey appeared on screen.
"Look, there's No. 22, the Rocket," he said, referring to Clemens' jersey number and his nickname.
Villalpando said he's just hoping for the Astros to make the playoffs and get past the first round. The Astros haven't won a playoff series in franchise history.
"If it doesn't happen this year, it's never going to happen," he said.
Charles Satterfield, 42, an energy trader, said he doesn't believe there will be tremendous pressure for the Astros to make it to the World Series with Clemens now on the team.
"I don't think (the fans) are going to put that kind of pressure on the team because they never have," he said. Clemens is "doing it just for the sheer fun of the game. It's the dream of a kid who's made it big and is coming back home."
Randy Martinez, 46, a digital operator, said he's somewhat skeptical about the Astros' chances, even with Clemens.
"I don't expect much. I hope I'm wrong," he said. "They have to get it done now."
Satterfield said he expects Clemens' signing to be a big boost to attendance and fan interest.
"It'll be great for the city," he said. "It'll be great for the game."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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