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Council gets Yankee Stadium workout

By Mark Herrmann

Newsday

NEW YORK — Clay Council does not come to Yankee Stadium for just any occasion. The only time before Monday night that he was in the ballpark was for Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. That, at least, is what he told his hometown paper, the Cary (N.C.) News.

The 71-year-old added that he expected to be more nervous Monday night, when he was flown in to be the pitcher for Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby.

Council is a volunteer coach for Cary High and American Legion Post 67 and has been throwing batting practice to kids for decades. And it’s Council, not Counsil, as it appeared on his jersey last night.

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"First time I met him, my brother was in high school. I was a little kid, running around the field, crazy," Hamilton said. "He continued to throw batting practice. You know, he never expected anything back from anybody. Probably never really got a lot of thank yous for doing it, either."

So here’s the conversation between the two recently, as recounted by Hamilton Monday:

Hamilton: "Clay, what are you doing (Monday)?"

Council: "I’m just going to throw some batting practice to some boys here."

Hamilton: "What do you think about throwing in Yankee Stadium?"

Council: "Oh man, that would be great."

Hamilton: "You going to tighten up on me?"

Council: "No, but I might have a heart attack."

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The bigger worry was his arm wearing out. In the first round, Council kept serving up good pitches and Hamilton kept pumping them out — 28 homers, three more than the previous record and 20 more than the first-round runner-up.

"We have to go again?" Council said when interviewed right after the first round.

Like other people in their hometown, Council is joyful over the way Hamilton has overcome his drug addiction and become the offensive smash of Major League Baseball this season. "He went down to the pits and came back," Council told the Cary News. "A lot of prayers have been answered."

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