Virginia Tech Celebrates 16th Annual Baseball Night In Blacksburg With Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens was the keynote speaker for Baseball Night in Blacksburg on Saturday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

On Saturday evening at Virginia Tech, Hahn Hurst Basketball Practice Center hosted the 16th Annual Baseball Night in Blacksburg as Hokies baseball players, families, alums and more gathered for the team’s preseason banquet.

For the second consecutive year, a number of former Hokies returned to town for the event: Tanner Schobel, Carson Jones, Gavin Cross, Chad Pinder and Joe Mantiply — who played in the 2023 World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks — to name a few.

Tampa Bay Rays general manager Erik Neander, a 2005 graduate from Tech, was also present. 

“It’s kind of cool to have a lot of former players here, whether they’re minor leaguers or big leaguers,” Tech head coach John Szefc told reporters before the event. “I think a lot of guys come back because they want to come back, because they want to be part of it. … As far as support for our program, it’s just good to have a lot of good baseball people here.”

No guest was more anticipated than keynote speaker Roger Clemens. An 11-time All-Star, seven-time Cy Young winner and two-time World Series champion, the former Red Sox and Yankees pitcher became the second baseball legend to speak at the event in as many years after Chipper Jones came to Tech in 2023.

“I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun for me,” Clemens said. “It’s an exciting time for [the team]. As soon as we get through the Super Bowl, it’s game on for spring training and in college baseball. I was able to visit with them a little bit about how exciting it is and was for me. It’s some of my most fond memories. I was one of them way back when at the University of Texas, and that was a huge stepping stone for my major league career, no question about it. So, I love doing it.”

Clemens spent Saturday touring Tech’s facilities and spoke to the team at the Weaver Baseball Center for an hour, with discussions surrounding the mental aspect of baseball being a top priority.

Roger Clemens spoke to the Virginia Tech baseball team early in the day on Saturday. (Virginia Tech athletics)

“I could’ve rambled on for another hour with them because I really enjoyed doing it,” Clemens said. “Out there on the mountain, you’re pretty much all business. So I told the guys, ‘Right now, this is a time to focus.’

“I think about the work [that] I hope they did in November, December and January, because the bells are gonna ring here pretty quick. And if you’re not ready, you’re gonna get left behind pretty quick. So it’s really important. They’ve got to go out there and play well, play great baseball for the fans here at Virginia Tech.”

As a former college baseball player who pitched for four different teams in MLB, Clemens dedicates much of his time to helping young ball players get their mental states right before the grind of the season begins.

“I’m out working and doing and trying to help other young men,” he said. “The work I do with the Astros — I’ll go down to spring training, might bounce into Red Sox camp, Yankee camp, depending on if they get some young guys to visit with. Just giving my best Knute Rockne speech, and it holds true, it’s good stuff. We talk to kids about the mental part of this game. They’re young men, but they know what they’re doing. They can elevate their game to a certain level.”

Saturday night was one of baseball celebrations in Blacksburg, featuring catered food and drinks, speeches from Szefc and Clemens, a live auction for Hokies memorabilia and more as Virginia Tech gears up for its season opener on Friday afternoon against Charlotte. The time and wisdom provided by one of the greatest pitchers ever certainly won’t be lost on this team or this community.

“He’s just as good a person as he was a player,” Szefc said. “A lot of guys like that, they don’t do stuff. They’ve got huge egos and they don’t deal with people that are still on their way up. And he’s not that way. That’s a lot to say for him.”

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