Stuffing a right-off-the-rack No. 22 Yankees T-shirt over her young son's head, a mother marked her child as a fan of the man that everyone wanted to see. Stadium vendors put their Clemens-wear front and center on their stands and hawked programs featuring his picture. Yankees fans young and old were ready to see The Rocket launch again.
Those showing their support for the 44-year-old veteran were hardly scarce when New York hosted its second series game against Pittsburgh. It was a day that many fans had waited for since Clemens announced his decision to return to the team on May 6.
Thirty minutes before Clemens even walked to the mound, the stands were already buzzing with anticipation.
"We're going to go nuts when he walks out on the field," said Doug Ray of Westchester County, N.Y. "It's a big deal for the city and a big deal for the team. There's such a psychological impact."
The crowd cheered when Clemens stepped onto the grass and walked to the bullpen for warmups. Fans near right field even lauded him with a standing ovation as he passed by.
Ray and his 8-year-old son, Harrison -- who both donned Clemens attire for Saturday's game -- usually watch the Yankees together on television. And even though The Rocket was 36 years old when Harrison was born, the young Yankees fan has learned from his father what Clemens means to his fans.
"It's a big morale boost, but it's more than that," Ray explained with Harrison listening intently. "It's psychological to have him out here."
The unexpectedness of the seven-time Cy Young Award winner's return was a happy accident for many fans who had bought tickets months in advance, never thinking they would be watching Clemens' start. Clemens was originally slated to return to the mound for the Yankees on Monday at Chicago, but he scratched himself from the start because of disrupted scar tissue in his right groin.
"We had these tickets for a while, and we were excited about the seats because they're the best we've ever had," said Dit Mosco of Warren County, N.J. "When The Rocket announced he was coming back, we were so excited. Then we find out he's starting Saturday -- we're are absolutely thrilled that the timing worked out."
Matching in navy Clemens T-shirts and New York caps, Mosco and her husband, Dominick, took their seats in the section behind home plate, hoping to see a pitcher that would bring back the old Yankees nostalgia.
"Just having him in the stadium is going to be a spark, and that's all the team needs right now," Mosco said. "We just need to come together and jell as fans, as a whole team. He's going to add immeasurable value."
Lauren Kobylarz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.