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Former Texas star Kody Clemens has his MLB opportunity but has to wait to seize it

Former Texas baseball star Kody Clemens takes a swing during Saturday's alumni game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The alumni team won 8-6 as Clemens went 1-for-4.

Kody Clemens was back at Texas over the weekend for the Longhorns' annual alumni game, on the brink of becoming a full-fledged major leaguer after having been added to the Detroit Tigers' 40-man roster.

Since being drafted in the third round in 2018, Clemens has bounced around the Tigers' farm system, logging time with the Lakeland Flying Tigers, the Michigan Whitecaps and, most recently, the Toledo Mud Hens. The Tigers put him on their expanded 40-man roster Nov. 19.

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“Detroit’s treated me really well over my four years that I’ve been with them, and I’m super happy to be with them,” Clemens said Saturday. “I was so excited for them to put me on the 40-man. To hear that news was really great for me in my career.”

Clemens' excitement, however, comes at an uncertain time for major league baseball, which remains stuck in a lockout that has brought everything to a halt. The work stoppage began Dec. 2 — two weeks after the Tigers added him — as the Players Association and owners failed to reach a deal on player contracts.

Kody Clemens, right, now a second baseman in the Detroit Tigers' organization, talks to UT infielder Mitchell Daly during Saturday's alumni game. Clemens has been added to the Tigers' 40-man roster but has been in Houston training on his own during the MLB lockout.

Two months later, the lockout continues. The union has rejected an offer of federal mediation, which will probably lead to a delay in spring training for players, including Clemens. The second baseman said that although he hopes the lockout will soon be resolved, it hasn't had a significant impact on his training.

“I'm still doing the same thing that I would be doing if there wasn't a lockout,” he said. “The only difference is I don't really know when we're going to start, so I'm trying to stay as prepared as I can in order to be ready when that phone call is ready, if it comes.”

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Clemens, 25, returned home to Houston this offseason to train and spend time with his family, squeezing in hunting, fishing and golf with brothers Kacy and Kory. “I love being near my parents and my family, so we’ve had a good offseason doing some fun things ... family dinners, birthdays and just normal stuff,” he said. 

Last season with the Mud Hens, Clemens hit .245 with a .458 slugging percentage. At the suggestion of Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, Clemens diversified his defensive play by adding work at first base and in right field along with his customary spot at second. Clemens said he found a sweet spot in hitting to left-center and is working to stay consistent at the plate.

“That's kind of like my hot spot,” he said. “If I'm hitting them over there, that's when I'm at my best.”

Kody Clemens and teammates celebrate a 5-2 win over Tennessee Tech in the 2018 NCAA super regional at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns went on to the College World Series that season, and Clemens was the Big 12's player of the year.

Other former UT teammates were back at UFCU Disch-Falk Field for Saturday's alumni game as well, including first baseman Zach Zubia of the Florida Complex League (Miami) Marlins and shortstop/second baseman David Hamilton, now with the Boston Red Sox organization.

Clemens said he was reminded of Texas' 2018 season, when the Longhorns won the Big 12 and made it to the College World Series. It was a team that "meshed," he said.

“I freaking love all of these guys,” Clemens said. “Seeing their faces just brings back a lot of memories we had here. It was a blast.”

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Clemens was named the 2018 Big 12 player of the year. 

“I learned a lot about (confidence) my junior year,” he said. “Once you have some success at the plate, that builds confidence, and if you continue to have that confidence at the plate, you’re going to succeed. That’s what I took from (Texas).”

Clemens went 1-for-4 Saturday in an 8-6 win for the alumni. Making it sweeter, his brother and former teammate Kacy and their father, Roger Clemens, were in the dugout.

“Kody’s been special,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “He loved playing for Texas, and now he’s a great ambassador for our program. ... The kid just goes out, and he loves baseball, and he loves his teammates.”