Josh Rogers Overcoming Challenges to Star for Charleston RiverDogs
Just 11 appearances into his professional career, LHP John Rogers has already shown a hint of what should be a long and successful career. This season he has made two starts, recording a 1-1 record and posting a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, include six-innings of shutout ball against the Augusta GreenJackets. That has moved his career record to 3-1 with a 3.33 ERA in two stops in the New York Yankees system.
A lot of young men would look at those numbers and already be imagining their name being called as they took the mound at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series. They would think of the great left-handers that have left their mark on America’s greatest sports franchise, men like Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry, and Andy Petitte, and would be imaging that it is just a short period of time before their name will be spoken of in the same awe as these three Yankees’ greats. That is not Josh Rogers, however.
Don’t be mistaken. The 6-3, 185-pound left-hander knows he has talent and knows he has the skills to make the Majors one day. He simply is not one who is focused on what could be, but is instead a young man who wants to not only do his best every time he takes the mound, but also who wants to relish every opportunity he gets, whether that is with the Charleston RiverDogs or the New York Yankees.
“I take it day by day, and not look too far ahead,” Josh explains. “That’s part of being a good teammate, and part of what you need to do to reach your goals. Everyone wants to reach the Major Leagues, but that does not happen overnight. You have to prove yourself, and I want to prove that I belong there with each pitch I throw.”
Proving He Has Earned His Place
Josh Rogers first became interested in baseball at about five-years old. It started with him playing in T-Ball in a local Rec league, but his parents decided to challenge their son early on. Because many of his friends were a year older than he was, they pushed him to play in the age bracket with his friends. He admits that playing against the older aged boys was a challenge, but the positives were huge in terms of his development as a baseball player.
“I was always playing a year ahead of the guys in my age group, which I think really benefitted me. It put me a step ahead in terms of the competition level. It was good that my parents pushed me as a younger kid.”
By the time he had reached high school, the lefty was finding that he no longer was behind in terms of his ability to compete with the older boys. In fact, he made the varsity baseball team at his high school his freshman year.
At the time, he loved both basketball and baseball. Growing up just 15 minutes from the University of Louisville, it is not hard to see that Josh would be attracted the sport, however, in his freshman year he had to make a tough realization about his prospects in basketball.
“Basketball was my priority sport but I realized I stunk! I wasn’t fast enough or good enough to play basketball in college.”
With that tough reality staring him in the face, family and friends suggested that he turn his full attention to baseball. Obviously, a smart suggestion. “Baseball kind of took over my life my freshman year in high school. I had a good season my freshman year and people were saying that maybe I could play college ball.”
In his sophomore and junior years, he dropped playing basketball all together and focused exclusively on baseball. This meant playing baseball in the summer and incorporating offseason programs designed to improve his strength and pitching skills.
In his junior season, the hard work really began to pay off. A group of colleges and universities came calling to invite him to take a look at playing baseball at their school. That included his beloved Louisville, which became a no-brainer of a selection for Josh.
In his senior season, the left-hander suffered a major setback. He decided to return to basketball for what he refers to as “one last round,” but before the baseball season began an injury led to Josh needing Tommy John surgery. That wiped out his senior season for baseball, and would actually put his college career on hold briefly.
Making a Name for Himself from the Very Start
Coming off of a surgery such as this, many would have opted to redshirt their freshman year, wanting to have every opportunity to prove that they had what it took to be playing college ball. Josh decided that if he was going to prove himself, it would be on the mound and it would be as soon as he could make that happen.
“I decided not to redshirt my freshman year. I worked really hard rehabbing and wanted myself ready as soon as I could pitch.”
While he worked quite hard to get himself ready, the Charleston starter is not taking the credit for his return. “I have to give a lot of credit to the coaching and training staffs there. They really worked with me to ensure that I was ready and they put me into a position where I could excel. I could not be more thankful for them.”
His return would be a huge factor in helping the Louisville Cardinals baseball team to make it to the College Regionals, through the Super Regionals and onto the College World Series. The left-hander started in the bullpen, before joining the rotation just before their playoff run. Combined that season, he went 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA. He also struck out 47 in 52.0 innings pitched. Not bad for a guy coming off of a major surgery like that.
In 2015, Josh put on one of the most impressive runs the school has ever seen. He lost his first start to Cal State-Fullerton, but then went on a run where he won eight straight games over 14 starts. What made that run even more impressive was that his team won every one of those starts as he put his team in a position to win each time out.
In one nine game stretch he did not allow more than two earned runs in any start, and pitched at least five innings in all but two starts that season. He finished 8-1 with a 3.36 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 93.2 innings pitched. He was named to the All-ACC Second Team and the 2015 NCAA Louisville Regional All-Tournament Team.
With those kind of numbers, it was clear that he was going to be noticed, and the New York Yankees saw all they needed to. Josh was chosen by the Yankees in the 11th round and was on his way to the New York-Penn League later that summer. Now he has the chance to live out his “dream come true” scenario.
“I grew up a big Yankees fan, so this is really incredible to me. I thought it was a dream come true to pitch at Louisville, now this. It is really special for sure. It was a dream come true to be drafted in the first place, and with it being the Yankees was just icing on the cake. I was lucky enough to be drafted by them to start my professional career.”
A True Teammate Above All Else
After three appearances in Short-A ball last season, he was moved to Charleston to finish the season. He is most grateful for that opportunity because this allowed him to be prepared for playing in Charleston this season.
“I was here for a couple of weeks last year, so that allowed me to learn how things go around here, how they are around the clubhouse, and that really helped me to get my feet wet. The coaching staff is fun, the players are fun. This is a great place to play for sure.”
The Charleston RiverDogs are glad he is playing for them as well. The team is off to a 9-3 start and Josh has helped to make that a reality. It has been one of the most amazing team efforts that one will see in baseball, as a new guy seems to be coming through with a big hit or a big pitch almost every single night. That has led to four walk-off wins, a 14-inning win, and six one-run victories.
While winning is always good, it is the fact that the RiverDogs are winning as a team that is what Josh most finds enjoyable about this season.
“I want to be a good teammate myself. A good clubhouse guy, and this is a great environment to be in. The guys in the rotation, we share information with one another, and you can just feel that everyone is pulling for each other.”
If you have seen the RiverDogs play this season, it is easy to see what the left-hander is talking about. They push each other to get the very best out of one another and this pushes Josh to want to excel for his teammates and the coaching staff.
“I want to be a guy that just goes out and gives you a consistent chance to win. That is really what I strive to do; to be a good teammate and to know that I am giving my team a chance to win each time I pitch.”
Remembering How He Got Here
This is the just the beginning of what could likely be a very storied New York Yankees career for Josh Rogers. He has three outstanding pitches, a lively fastball, and excellent control that pitching coaches and organizations love.
He is also a bulldog on the mound. The left-hander describes himself as “laid back,” and is not one to get flustered when things are not going his way. He will battle and he will give his team a chance to win each time he takes the mound.
It is the skill set and the character that make Josh Rogers a special player on the mound. What makes him a special man off the field is that there is no bravado or sense of entitlement. He worked hard to get where he is, but he credits those who have helped him get to that place. His coaches and the training staff at Louisville did an amazing job in helping him return to the diamond. His parents made a decision to challenge their son early on in his life and it has led him to a spot in the New York Yankees organization. There are many that have played a part in helping Josh Rogers to be the man that he is, and he fully acknowledges those who have made the biggest difference.
“My family. Just being close to home, through college and throughout my life they have played a huge role in pushing me and providing for me. Just being there for me, always on my side. My mom and dad, my grandmas and grandpas always on my side. I owe them so much.”
Bobby and Eldora Rogers have raised an outstanding young man that has the tools and drive to reach some pretty lofty goals. Who knows exactly what that final goal will be, but don’t be surprised if one day he is taking the mound for the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series. Probably many along the way have doubted he could compete against boys a year older than him. Many have probably thought he would not star on the varsity team as a freshman, or that he could star at Louisville as a freshman coming off Tommy John surgery. Many have doubted and they’ve been wrong. So go ahead and doubt. The Charleston RiverDogs Josh Rogers would love to prove them wrong once again.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA