Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
July 14, 2014, Victoria, BC (ISN) – After the first thirty games of the 2014 West Coast League summer collegiate baseball season, Nanaimo, B.C. and Vancouver Island native Alex Rogers has quietly become one of the Victoria HarbourCats’ top starting pitchers.
Nanaimo native Alex Rogers has quietly become one of the Victoria HarbourCats top starting pitchers, leading the team in ERA and a number of other statistical categories half-way through the 2014 season (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Pitching this school season for little Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado, the 20-year old Rogers was initially signed to a 10-day contract with the HarbourCats, but quickly earned his way to a full season deal, and now, with only one of his five league starts coming at home, has very quietly risen to the top of the HarbourCats pitching charts in a number of statistical categories.
As of the completion of the ‘Cats three-game series with Medford this past weekend, Rogers, one of just three Canadian born players on the team, led his highly touted Division 1 teammates and fellow top-4 starters Andrew Nelson (Kentucky), Logan Lombana (Long Beach State), and Mikey Wright (San Jose State) in ERA (2.38), fewest hits allowed (25), fewest runs (10) and earned runs (9) allowed, and fewest walks (7, tied with Wright). He is second to Wright in WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) with a miniscule .94 and has held opponents to a .216 batting average, second again to Wright’s 194.
With success at Trinidad State Junior College (left) and now with the HarbourCats (right), 2014 is shaping up to be a good year for Nanaimo native Alex Rogers (Photo: Left – TSJC, Right – Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
For those that know Rogers and know of his background playing in the Nanaimo Minor Baseball Association and then the Nanaimo Pirates of the BCPBL under the tutelage of his long-time coach and father Doug Rogers – a well-known figure in the British Columbia baseball community – they will know that Alex’s success to date is no accident.
The elder Rogers taught Alex and his twin brother Brady (who plays for the Moose Jaw Miller Express in the WMBL and will be joining Alex at Trinidad next season) how to play the game the right way and how to be a student of the game. Alex took that to heart, questioning everything along the way during his minor baseball days, and molded it into his own philosophy and attitude that allows him to enjoy success on the field.
It was not until his fifth start of the season that Victoria’s Alex Rogers was able to pitch in a WCL league game at Royal Athletic Park. He rewarded fans with a near complete game performance (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That attitude and philosophy translated into a fine final year in the BCPBL, where he led the league in pitching and a fine first year at Trinidad State, where he helped his team win the conference and come within one game of going to the Junior College World Series. It also helped him earn his spot on the HarbourCats this season.
“The HarbourCats had a great reputation last year for the baseball atmosphere at the park and in the City and after coming to a couple of games last year to watch them play, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that this season,” said Rogers. “I approached the team early in the year and told them I wanted to play in Victoria, and be part of that Division 1 experience, even if it wasn’t going to be in a starting role. So to be here now and enjoying the success I have been having, it is really special. And to be doing it so close to home makes it even better.”
While attitude and philosophy are one thing, performance on the field is what will keep you on a team and in that regard, at least in this author’s mind, Rogers has been the most consistent HarbourCats starting pitcher to date. In his five starts he has gone seven innings or more in all but one, and most recently in last Thursday’s game against Medford, he came within one out of a complete game before he was pulled.
Rogers did pitch a bit closer to home when he pitched the first two innings of an exhibition game against the Langley Blaze in Duncan, BC on June 22nd (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
His record in those five starts is 2-2, but with a key hit here and a key bounce there, Rogers could easily be 5-0 on the season. Two of his losses and his no decision (also a loss) were all one-run ball games, while his 4-1 loss to Kelowna in the third game of the year was basically decided when Kelowna scored three runs in the fourth, two of which came in on a critical HarbourCats error.
That might prove extremely frustrating for some pitchers, but Rogers takes it all in stride as part of the game. “I try not to worry about things I can’t control. The only thing I CAN control is myself on the mound. I tell myself each inning not to worry about the things that happen around me, but worry about what I can do. It’s baseball…things are not going to go your way, but you have to do the best you can do at controlling the things only you can control.”
Rogers (centre) was thrilled to sign a season long contract with the HarbourCats and to be in the dugout on opening day, surrounded by his teammates and playing in front of his “hometown” crowd (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
Rogers is doing his part to show fellow Canadians and local ball players what it takes to play at the U.S. collegiate level and what it takes to enjoy success at doing so. As one of five Island-born pitchers that were signed initially by the club, some, including Rogers, on 10-day contracts, Alex is the only one that is still on the team. Again that stems from his on-field success but also on his positive philosophy.
“I never came here thinking I was going to be here for only ten days,” said Rogers. “My expectation was that I was going to be here all summer. You have to come in here with that kind of confidence thinking that was going to happen. It was very gratifying when that confidence bore itself out with the full season contract that the club offered.”
Rogers has also stuck around because of his willingness to work hard behind the scenes at perfecting his craft (another trait learned from father Doug), keeping up with his fitness and running on off-days and the willingness to learn from the likes of his Division 1 teammates and pitching coach Ben Jackson.
Whether it is practicing fielding drills (left) or throwing in the bullpen on off days, Rogers is willing to work hard and do what it takes to have continued success at the college level and beyond (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
“Ben has been very, very good at teaching me little things that help me get just a bit more movement on my pitches so that I’m not always showing the same pitch twice,” noted Rogers. “Little things like a slightly different grip, or slightly different pressure with different fingers, that make the ball run away or move a bit differently each time.”
Rogers success this year has not been lost on HarbourCats head coach Bob Miller who considers Alex one of the nicer surprises of the season so far. “Alex has been really consistent for us in every start and has given us a chance to win every time out,” said Miller. “He is doing a great job of commanding the strike zone and doing that with al three of his pitches…he throws that curve ball for strikes…he keeps the ball down in the zone and although he is not a strikeout kind of pitcher, he pitches to a lot of ground balls which is good. He has been THE most consistent starting pitcher we’ve been able to run out week after week. Not knowing that much about him before coming here this season, he has sure been a pleasant surprise and has been very impressive for us.”
All of this success might give a young pitcher like Rogers a bit of an ego, but Alex has not lost sight of those who helped him get where he is and when he can, gives back to the Nanaimo community and his hometown Pirates. Almost two weeks ago, on a day off with the HarbourCats, Alex joined his former BC Premier League club on the sidelines – next to his father Doug – as they took on the Victoria Eagles in games at Lambrick Park in Victoria.
Earlier this month on a day off from his HarbourCats duties, Alex (second from right) joined his father Doug (right) to help coach his former team the Nanaimo Pirates in BCPBL games against the Victoria Eagles (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)
That part of Alex’s make-up is something that his father Doug and mother Joni really appreciate. “I think the thing that Joni and I are most proud of with Alex’s baseball is the fact he hasn’t lost sight of where he came from and the players he played with,” said the elder Rogers. “Too many players once they’ve reached a certain level of success become somewhat self-absorbed, losing touch with what and who helped them along the way. Alex is very humble and cares as much about his former teammates and team (Pirates) as he does of his accomplishments. That says a lot of the kind of kid he is. He’s as loyal as they come.”
Doug and Joni are also very proud of the accomplishments that Alex has made on the field, sometimes in the face of huge obstacles. “The other thing that sticks out in my mind is how he has risen to the occasion, meaning he’s had to prove himself every step of the way,” added Doug. “Baseball, like many things can be political. Coming to the HarbourCats Alex carried the labels ’10 day contract player’ or ‘Junior College player’ which carry pre-conceived ideas that possibly the player isn’t at the same level as the other players. Alex, although he’s aware of these ideas, has the thought process that he can compete with anyone. He’s a baseball player (pitcher), the same as any other. Because he’s Canadian, or plays at a JC, or signs a 10-day contract makes no difference to him. He believes things are earned, and we’re very proud of him for that attitude…and he’s earning it.”
Alex is scheduled to make his next start this coming Wednesday July 16th – on the road of course – when the HarbourCats visit the league leading Bellingham Bells. Game time is 7:05 pm and fans of Alex and the HarbourCats can monitor his progress by tuning in live on web pay-per-view or by listening to free audio, both available at www.harbourcats.com/listen.
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