I just want to give huge kudos to the Houston Astros organization for giving the “okay for liftoff,” and letting their Minor League hitting coach Stubby Clapp take a month hiatus this summer to play for Team Canada at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

It’s awesome enough that an active coach will get a chance to get back on the field … and let’s face it, no one gets on the field the way that Clapp does, via trademark back flip …

Currently the hitting coach for the Class A Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League, Clapp has become a Minor League legend for more than just his catchy nickname (for the record, his given name is Richard Keith Clapp III but he was nicknamed “Stubby” like his dad and grandfather before him).

A longtime farmhand with the St. Louis Cardinals, his big league resume consists of a grand total of 23 games in 2001 but the impact he had on fans around the Minors lives on.

He played for four years for the Cards’ Triple-A Memphis Redbirds affiliate and in 2007 his No. 10 was the first number retired in that club’s history. Also, if you can get it (I am sure it is a collector’s item), he was featured — all 5-foot-8 of him — on a growth chart for kids during his Redbirds reign. And as if Memphis fans didn’t love him enough, he even married a lovely local lady.  

But newly-planted Tennessee (and Kentucky) roots aside, the 35-year-old from Windsor, Ontario, has really been the face, the heart, soul and sense of humor, of Baseball Canada for years.

Back in 2004, when Canada made it to the Summer Olympics in Athens (while Team USA stayed home following a 1-0 loss to Mexico in the qualifying semifinals), it was Clapp who was the team leader as well as king of the arts and crafts club — when slugger Justin Morneau was promoted to the big leagues right before the Olympics, it was Clapp who found a Morneau bobblehead doll given away by the Rochester Red Wings earlier that summer and painted a Team Canada uniform on it. That became the lucky charm for the club, which played its way to the Olympics semifinals and actually led Cuba in that game before allowing the winning runs in the late innings. I know. I followed the game with my heart in my mouth online that day.

Little Bobs.jpgI was lucky enough to acquire a Stubby Clapp bobblehead doll which is one of my most prized collectibles (in case you’re wondering, left to right, that is the Phillies Phanatic Bobble-Belly doll, Stubby in his Memphis glory, Kevin Millar, Prickle the Dinosaur from Gumby, and, perhaps my most unusual collectible, my Tony Beasley nesting doll from when the current Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach was the manager at Double-A Altoona. Missing from the picture is my Mr. Celery bobble — um — stalk?)

Anyway … Now Stubby is a coach, and may I say an outstanding hire by the Astros organization. I can think of few people who could be more inspiring to young charges. So I do understand why the club was reluctan at first to lose him for a month mid-season.

But I am SO glad the decision was reconsidered and that Stubby will get the chance to be with Team Canada in what may be the final hurrah for baseball at the Olympics … even though he’s been plagued by a bad knee, it’s his heart that is so vital to that team.

Way to go, Astros!



  1. beesgal

    Sorry about the double-entry! The links didn’t get posted in my previous comment. Oops!

    Hey Lisa,
    I know what you mean about personal favorites. My all-time All-Star is Jeff Harris, RHP, with the Buffalo Bisons. (If you bump into Jeff, please tell him I said “Hello!”) He played here in Salt Lake with the Twins organization for a couple of seasons. It didn’t take long to notice that after every game, win or lose, he would spend 45 minutes signing for kids and adults. Every Sunday, he’d volunteer to sit at the player signing table. No doubt the other players drew straws and made the loser do it.

    Jeff was drafted in the 28th round in 1995 by the Minnesota Twins. He worked his way up the ranks and arrived in Salt Lake in 1998. In 1999, he started at AA, finished at AAA and pitched well enough to get a September call-up. He never made it, however. My recollection was he had a freak accident stepping on a sprinkler and sprained (a knee? ankle?). The next year, 2000, he only pitched 24 games at AA and was released the following winter.

    I spent the next couple of seasons trying keep tabs on him at Chico (Indy ball). Then I sort of lost track until one day in 2004, while scanning the transactions page I saw he’d been picked up by the Mariners. I quickly sent a card of congratulations. The next season Tacoma came to town and I wandered over to the visitors’ bullpen. I sat a couple of rows away and waited until Jeff looked up. I tipped down my sunglasses and flashed a smile at him. He stared hard for a minute and then broke into a huge grin. I ran down and congratulated him, “I just wanted to come over and welcome you back to organized baseball!” That fall, Jeff finally got his first major league appearance. When he was released in 2006, Seattle and Tacoma fans were furious! They too had fallen in love with the soft-spoken, never-quit kid from Alameda, CA.

    This season, I’d say my pick is Dirk Hayhurst, RHP with the Portland Beavers. Dirk’s been blogging about his “Misadventures of a Minor League Nobody.” His articles offer funny, candid and thoughtful musings on life, baseball and the pursuit of happiness. Two of my favorites are “Have You Tried Prayer?” a brutally funny recollection of what it’s like to tank in front of your whole family. You will no doubt also recognize the “elephant in the room” no one likes to talk about–the potential consequences of too many outings like this one. Another entry, short but sweet, is Trevor Time. The lanky right-hander from Canton, OH, shows some pretty good stuff. 😎

    Don’t have any hard souvenirs from Jeff or Dirk, just awesome memories. I don’t really follow teams anymore, except to track some of the guys who were been part of those experiences. I wish them all the best of luck. . .BeesGal

  2. gotmilb

    Hey there …

    I haven’t met Jeff or Dirk yet in my travels but will definitely keep an eye out for them … was supposed to see Buffalo earlier this season but the weather forecast scared me off (I know, ME, scared of a little rain? Of course it ended up being fine … sigh). I will be sure to pass along your regards when I do get up there, though. Gabriel’s Gate and its amazing Buffalo wings are calling my name …

    Also have not met Dirk but have read his columns and LOVE them. He can call himself a “Minor League Nobody” but his numbers tell me otherwise. Gotta love that.


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