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.
I 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!