WICHITA -- The scene in the Kansas Stars dugout Monday night minutes before first pitch sort of looked like a Spring Training game. And an All-Star Game. And a playoff game. And an old-timers game.
Spring Training? Lawrence Dumont Stadium, site of the 82nd National Baseball Congress World Series, seats around 6,000. It's very hot in Wichita this time of year, and the players in the dugout were relatively relaxed, stress-free and seemingly having a good time.
Spring Training -- check.
All-Star Game? The ex-big leaguers pacing the dugout have played in a combined 30 of them. Eight of them have played in at least one World Series. A couple could be considered borderline Hall of Famers. Plenty have shown up in the top five for Cy Young voting. One -- Roger Clemens -- has won seven of them.
All-Star Game -- check.
Playoff game? Maybe that's a stretch, but Roy Oswalt, Monday's starting pitcher, seemed to pick up some of his old habits as he waited to take the mound after warming up. He sat alone in the dugout, gazing toward the mound, seemingly unaware, or unfazed, by the hoopla around him.
Even the presence of country singer Toby Keith, honorary manager of the Stars, wearing No. 10 and throwing the ceremonial first pitch to Clemens, didn't take Oswalt out of his mini-trance. It was very reminiscent of what he looked like just before Game 6 of the 2005 NLCS in St. Louis, when he knew a win would score him a bulldozer from then owner Drayton McLane.
So yes, playoff game -- check.
Old-timers game? That's easy. Just ask the players how it felt to strap on the gear after so much time off.
"I had no idea how I was even going to make contact," said J.D. Drew, who roamed the outfield for the Cardinals, Braves, Dodgers and Red Sox from 1998-2011. "I had not faced live pitching since I walked off the field in Baltimore [for Boston in 2011]."
Said 54-year-old Clemens, who last appeared for the Yankees nine years ago: "I just want everyone to stay healthy through all of this. It's all fun and games until you get out there and the bell rings."
Former Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson, who helped put the team together, wryly categorized the Stars as having "no expectations."
"We show up, and at the end of the day, we hope it's just an ice pack that's going on the body," he chuckled.
Classic old-timer speak, and perfect for this setting.
Credit this group of ex-Major Leaguers for having a healthy dose of self-awareness. It should also be noted that even though most of the group hadn't played competitively in years, the college kids they faced this week didn't stand much of a chance.
The Stars, as expected, rolled over the Liberal KS Bee Jays on Monday, 8-3. The first two runs were scored in the first inning, when left fielder Laynce Nix misplayed a perfectly playable fly ball. That was the end of any real threat; Oswalt fanned six in three innings. Brad Penny and Jeremy Guthrie contributed scoreless frames, and the Stars amassed 12 hits, led by Pete Orr, who was 3-for-5.
So the box score looked good. The players did as well, wearing the uniforms of the Major League teams for whom they once played. The Stars have played two games and performed well in both, and while they may not admit as much, it's safe to assume the high-level performances have come as a bit of a relief.
The physical ability to play baseball at the highest level eventually leaves all Major Leaguers, but the desire to compete never goes away. That's probably why Robertson and Adam LaRoche received such positive response when they started recruiting players to form a team for this tournament.
"You love to compete, and you end up taking it out on your poor kids with ping pong or Candyland or whatever it may be," former Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. "There's nothing you can do about it. Something like this is a great outlet for us to come out here and play a little baseball."
The Stars have been drawing sellout crowds, a trend likely to continue on Wednesday when Clemens takes the mound. He'll pair with his son, Koby, a catcher and former Astros farmhand. Asked what he's expecting from this outing, Clemens turned to Keith, the only other member of the over-50 club who will take up space in the Stars' dugout.
"We're still going pretty good aren't we?" Clemens to the country crooner. "We don't have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel yet. I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm hoping I'm as good once than I ever was."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.