WASHINGTON (AP) — Roger Clemens' defense team is putting on witnesses who described in reverential terms the famed baseball pitcher's work ethic in high school and college.
The message is that hard work, not steroids or human growth hormone, turned Clemens into a successful pitcher. That came after prosecutors used two dozen witnesses over 19 days to try to prove that Clemens lied to Congress in 2008 when he denied taking performance-enhancing drugs.
One of Clemens' former high school teammates in Texas, Todd Howey, said he and his friends would see Clemens jogging on Friday nights while they were out "looking for trouble." Clemens did so many runs in the outfield that he dug a trail that looked like it had been carved by a cow in a pasture, the witness testified.
"I've yet to see anybody work like Roger Clemens," Howey said. Despite the dedication, Clemens was not an exceptional pitcher back then, he said, reaching only 83-84 mph on his fastball. But when Howey played against him in college — Howey for Texas Tech and Clemens for the University of Texas — Clemens was throwing a lot harder.
"He proved us all wrong," Howey said, who talked so fast he had to be slowed down by the court reporter and Clemens lawyer Rusty Hardin.
"You're one of those unusual things — a fast-talking Southerner," Hardin quipped.
Mike Capel, a former major league pitcher and longtime friend of Clemens, had played against him in high school and was a teammate in college. He made a similar observation about Clemens' transformation in college into a harder thrower, more athletic and trimmed down compared with high school. He said Clemens had a "very, very, very good" work ethic.
Capel said Clemens made a point of taking care of his body. During cross-examination Wednesday, prosecutor Gil Guerrero asked Capel if in coming to that conclusion, he took into consideration some substances that Clemens has admitted taking. The pitcher has said that he took the stimulant ephedra, before it was banned by Major League Baseball, and that he used to eat "Vioxx like it was Skittles." Vioxx, an arthritis medication, was withdrawn from the market in 2004 because a clinical trial revealed increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Capel said he didn't know what Vioxx was, and that he did not take Clemens' use of ephedra into account in his previous comment.
Clemens has taken frequent notes through most of the trial, but he put the pen down during their testimony and watched closely.
Prosecutors tried to exclude the glowing testimony on grounds that seven government witnesses already testified during cross-examination how hard Clemens worked. They wrote in a filing late Monday that it invited jurors to infer that because Clemens didn't use performance-enhancing drugs early on, he must not have later in his career.
Prosecutors argued that if the testimony were to be allowed, the judge should let them rebut it with evidence from other players who also worked hard but still used steroids or HGH.
But U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled against them on both counts.
"Athletes who are hard workers tend to last longer and perform better," said Walton, a former athlete himself who went to college on a football scholarship.
Clemens' lawyers started their case after the government rested Tuesday. The government's main witness was Clemens' former strength coach, Brian McNamee, who said he injected the ex-pitcher with steroids in 1998, 2000 and 2001 and with human growth hormone in 2000.
Clemens is charged with two counts of perjury, three counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of Congress. All relate to his testimony at a congressional hearing in February 2008 and his deposition that preceded it.
The heart of the case is the allegation that Clemens lied when he said he had never used steroids or HGH, but the obstruction count included 15 statements, or "acts," in which Clemens is alleged to have misled Congress on a variety of issues. Walton dismissed two of those acts Tuesday.
Thirteen alleged misleading statements remain in the charges. The government only needs to prove one to gain a conviction for obstruction of Congress.
AP Sports Writer Joseph White contributed to this report.
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