Professional athletes can find inspiration in a number of ways, and perhaps none is more certain to get a player’s competitive juices going than a challenge.
There were a couple of reminders of this fact Wednesday afternoon during Houston’s batting practice session at Busch Stadium.
The first came from lefty reliever Mike Gallo, noticeably agitated upon his arrival at the ballpark.
"Can you believe it?" Gallo asked. "I’m waiting for my car and I see a newspaper and I start reading it a little bit and I see where it says the Astros are a little weak on the left side of the bullpen and they don’t have a left-handed specialist. Well, I know I’m not a left-handed specialist — I get righties out, too — but at the same time it fired me up. So I’m a little more juiced tonight."
Gallo said he was insulted by the piece.
"A little bit, yeah," he said. "I faced two lefties in that (National League Division) series and I got both of them out."
So why not exercise his right as a reader and write the author an e-mail?
"I’d rather prove it on the field," Gallo said.
That’s what Roger Clemens did. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner won his bet with teammate Andy Pettitte over who would finish with the higher batting average this season. Clemens won dinner off Pettitte by hitting .207 compared to the lefty’s .081.
"It was a given how much trash he was talking in Spring Training about how he was going to outhit us," Clemens said. "I was on my way to a .300 year and Andy decided to go national TV with it on my hitting. I went downhill from there and I hung on to the end and it cost my man a little bit on a dinner bet."
We’re not talking fast food here. Clemens brought several cronies to a fancy eatery in Atlanta and stuck Pettitte with a tab he won’t soon forget.
"Roy (Oswalt) was there," Clemens said. "I had to bring a couple of wine connoisseurs. Mr. (Craig) Biggio knows how to order a nice bottle of wine, let’s put it that way. They brought one out; it wasn’t dusty enough, so we sent that one back and had them blow the dust off the label. We didn’t care what it tasted like as long as it was old."
Clemens said Pettitte took the loss well.
"I just won a wager that I didn’t start, which is usually the case whether it happens on the baseball field or the golf course," Clemens said. "You know what, the big left-hander doesn’t like losing five dollars on the golf course. He doesn’t like losing a bet. He’ll pay, he just doesn’t like losing." — Jim Molony / MLB.com