Rogers' perseverance learned on open sea
In pursuit of rotation spot, right-hander recalls lobstering days with father, brother
PHOENIX -- Craig Rogers had a bad day on the water last week. A storm brewed off the coast of Maine, so the 54-year-old spent a harrowing day hauling 300 lobster traps to greater depths, rather than allowing the Atlantic Ocean to churn them into balls of wire.
"The next time I haul, it will be what we call a 'broker,'" said Rogers, a fourth-generation lobsterman. "It will be a long day of work for nothing.
A few days later, his 26-year-old son Mark had a bad day on the mound. Mark Rogers lasted only four outs against the Rangers and topped out at 89 mph on the stadium radar gun. He has 10 walks and one strikeout in six Cactus League innings so far. Mark Rogers' bid for a spot in the Brewers' Opening Day rotation is not going well.
"I've been putting in the work," he said. "I've just got to continue to work through it."
Somehow, Mark Rogers failed to inherit his dad's New England accent. But Mark did inherit the work ethic of a man who rises at 4 a.m. six days a week, stops for coffee with his fellow fishermen, loads up with bait and fuel and departs Maine's picturesque Mackerel Cove for the open ocean.
Mark was working by the time he was 6 or 7 years old. When he was 11, Mark and older brother Brett inherited their grandfather's rowboat and began lobstering on their own. They earned enough to buy an outboard motor, and the two brothers built a small business that provided spending money through high school.
"My mother [Stephanie] had to come with us in the beginning to make sure we didn't kill each other," Mark said. "Slowly, it turned into just him and I going together. That was a lot more fun."
Said Craig Rogers: "He was always trying to do a little bit more than he was able to do at his age. I had a lot of fun with him."
It was also work -- hard work. Mark Rogers described in great detail the lobster traps his dad uses to fish off the coast, the laws governing the number of traps each fisherman can haul and the current per-pound prices of lobster.
"It's a lot of hard work, and a lot of patience, too," Mark said. "One thing about lobstering is you're self-made, and you get as much out of it as you put in. Very few people are out there now hauling. The weather is lousy, you have to pick your days and you really have to really know a lot about what you're doing to catch anything at this time of year. My dad is very diligent with his memory of where lobsters have been, the lobster patterns and where they move to, water temperatures."
Yet Mark Rogers watched his dad work year-round. His uncles, too. Craig Rogers' brothers operate out of the same cove.
There are good days and bad days. One day recently, Craig Rogers pocketed $26 in profit, Mark said.
"I don't want to pat ourselves on the back out here, but it's a hard life," Craig Rogers said. "It's not like packing your lunch and going to the [office]. There are days you get kicked around, and some days you're just glad to get home."
Which brings us back to baseball. Mark regularly served as one of dad's first mates until 2004, when Milwaukee made him a first-round Draft pick and he began a baseball career that has included more than a few "brokers." There was a shoulder surgery early in his career and two full seasons lost to rehab. There was a promising four-game Major League debut in 2010, followed by more surgery in 2011 for carpal tunnel syndrome. Every day, Mark Rogers would call home, dad says, with a positive spin on his progress.
In 2012, Mark's seas calmed. He made 18 healthy starts at Triple-A Nashville, followed by seven starts for the Brewers. Rogers' fastball averaged 93.6 mph and he had a 3.92 big league ERA when the organization decided he had thrown enough innings. Rogers reluctantly shut down and focused ahead to 2013, when he would report to camp out of Minor League options, with a strong chance to win a job in Milwaukee's pitching rotation.
"I know how bad he wants it," Craig Rogers said. "I've watched him. I don't think the people understand, and I didn't until I saw him go through it, how worked up he is about making the team this year. He wants to be a starter."
Father and son talked about that wish at Thanksgiving, when Mark went home to Maine and spent a day working with his dad and younger brother Scott, 22, who is studying business at the University of Southern Maine and considering carrying on the family business. Mark admits he was out of practice. But when he returned to his new home in Chandler, Ariz., Mark rediscovered what he was good at. He began rising early and driving to Maryvale Baseball Park for workouts and throwing sessions.
Craig actually worried his son was working too hard, and told him so.
"If you think about it, at this point, he's already more than two months into this," Craig Rogers said.
All of that early work could explain why Mark is missing the usual zip on his fastball. After Tuesday's tough loss to the Rangers, Rogers' next step is unclear. Manager Ron Roenicke would not commit to Rogers' immediate plan on Wednesday, saying only, "We're still trying to figure out some things." Roenicke said he could not elaborate.
But Rogers said the bullpen session before his last start was excellent, and he predicted the work would translate into his next outing -- which he hopes is a start. For now, the Brewers only have probable pitchers listed through Saturday. Sunday would be Rogers' usual day to pitch.
If he does indeed pitch that day, Rogers would have some fans in the stands. Craig and Stephanie Rogers arrived in Phoenix on Tuesday night and attended Wednesday's night game with Mark, his wife Kerrie and their young daughter, Ellyette.
"I know my dad is my biggest fan," Rogers said. "He's been there through the surgeries, the rehabs, all of the junk I've been through. I feel like we kind of went through it together."