Jul 17, 2008
Even though it was well past his bedtime, 71-year-old Clay Council sat through every out of the 15-inning All-Star marathon Tuesday night.
The winning run crossed the plate at 1:45 am. Council jetted back home Wednesday morning,arriving in Cary at noon, still on an All-Star high.
What keeps him going?
"Adrenaline! It'll wear down, and I'll say did all this really happen?" Council said as he pinched his arm.
Clay was a special guest of Rangers star Josh Hamilton at the All-Star game in Yankee Stadium. Council was given all-star treatment, with his own uniform, although his last name was misspelled on the back. The correct spelling is Council. Major League Baseball had it Counsil.
"I said, 'Don't worry about it.' Jeez, I've been called a lot worse," Council quipped.
He got his own All-Star ring and even had a locker in the clubhouse surrounded by the best baseball players in the world.
"Over here was (Alex) Rodriguez and his locker. (Derek) Jeter over here in this locker. Then there's Josh Hamilton and Clay Council," Council said as he shook his head in disbelief.
Hamilton invited his longtime friend to pitch to him in the home run derby at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
American League manager Terry Francona joked with Council before the derby.
"He said, 'You got the most important job here,'" Council explained. "I said, 'Will you hush? I'm nervous enough!'"
Clay and Josh teamed up just like they did many summers in North Carolina. Council found the fat part of the plate, and Hamilton crushed the baseball into astounding distances.
So much for nerves.
"I kind of got at ease, you know? I can do this," said Council. "It's the same mechanics, the same arm path. I felt like I was back at Cary High School or Athens Drive. It's the same." Council paused and looked around the Cary field. "Just 60,000 more people."
Clay and Josh teamed up and just flat stole the show, bringing Yankee stadium to a post-season kind of frenzy.
Even though Hamilton hammered a record 28 home runs in the first round, he fell short in the finals. But Monday night was a moment that will live forever. A thank-you from Hamilton to Council, who has helped so many players in his 30 years of baseball.
After his three day All-Star journey was over, Council said he told Hamilton, "For three days in my life, you made me somebody. I thank you and love you."
"This is the mountaintop. If the good Lord calls me tomorrow, I'm ready," Council added.
Not so fast, Mr. Council. People are wondering if you will pitch in next year's home run derby.
"At my age?" Council quickly responded. "You don't plan that far in advance. I mean, you might plan this evening or tonight."
Wednesday evening, Clay Council was back throwing batting practice. Not at Yankee Stadium, but in a small Smithfield park where his Cary legion team was getting ready to play.