Cloquet native Thomas Rogers brings game north of the borderWearing a long, grizzly beard, Thomas Rogers lives north of the Canadian border with minimal cell phone service and little time to sleep. It’s worth it, though.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Wearing a long, grizzly beard, Thomas Rogers lives north of the Canadian border with minimal cell phone service and little time to sleep. It’s worth it, though.
Because he’s a baseball pitcher. That’s what they do.
The 6-foot, 215-pound, heavy-hurling right-hander pounds his fastball down, locates his curve away and baffles batters with his changeup. In fact, the Cloquet native has been so effective lately, he’s taken his talents to the Thunder Bay Border Cats of the Northwoods League, a premier summer baseball organization based around the country’s top collegiate players from all levels.
Rogers, a star reliever this past spring for the College of St. Scholastica, had a season to remember for the Saints. In his 32-plus innings of work, the sophomore only allowed one run. His 0.28 earned run average was amongst the nation’s finest, while he had four saves and never lost over 16 appearances.
That prompted the Border Cats to approach the strong Division III slinger. Following the college season, the 20-year-old signed a 10-day temporary contract around Memorial Day. He currently lives with a host family across the border while serving his contact – even longer than expected.
“He’s been there 20 days,” said his mother, Brenda, Tuesday. “We’re not sure how long he will be up there, but we’re excited about the opportunity he has. Thomas has always loved baseball. He’s always had a bat and a ball.”
According to Rogers, he started at age 5 with T-Ball. He remembers days playing catch with his father, Jim, and constantly playing with his neighborhood friends every day.
Years later, he still plays every day.
“I think we have one off day in the whole month of June,” said Rogers Wednesday afternoon in a phone interview from Thunder Bay, Ont. “One day we’re in Thunder Bay, then Waterloo or Rochester, everywhere. I play every day with guys who love baseball. Guys from Idaho, Texas, USC, UCLA, everywhere. It’s different, but I wouldn’t trade it at all.”
Rogers played four years of varsity baseball in Cloquet, before committing to St. Scholastica. Playing sparingly as a freshman, Rogers increased his workload this spring and has continued to improve. With the Border Cats, he’s thrown seven innings, allowed four runs and only one in his last six innings.
“Thomas has to be careful, because guys in this league are very good,” Jim Rogers said. “At this level, everyone is like a three, four, five hitter.”
Jim and his wife watched their son throw in relief against the Duluth Huskies last weekend at Wade Stadium. When not traveling the road to watch games, Jim said he and Brenda watch Border Cats games online.
“Not until the seventh inning,” said Jim, a doctor at Cloquet’s Raiter Clinic. “We are very proud of him. Thomas has always wanted to be a pitcher growing up. It’s very exciting. It’s just too much fun not to go watch. Even if he doesn’t get to play. In any inning, something can happen.”
Jim said he and Brenda attended around 90-percent of the Saints’ games this spring. They even traveled to Florida. Former Cloquet High School Coach Rick Stowell said he looks for Thomas’ statistics when he can.
“Every few days, I’ll go online and see how he’s doing with St. Scholastica or Thunder Bay,” Stowell said. “He can throw the ball wherever he wants to. Up, down, inside, outside, with any pitch. He’s a competitor.
“In fact, we use him as an example all the time at practice,” continued Stowell, now an assistant for the Lumberjacks. “I think he had a streak for us of 38 consecutive innings without issuing a walk. That’s phenomenal.”
Statistics aside, Stowell said Rogers’ love for the game is remarkable.
“I started coaching Thomas when he was 13 years old,” Stowell said. “And he’s learned the game more and more along the way. Thomas is a guy who works so hard and has a baseball IQ. He’s a real student of the game. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he stayed up [in Thunder Bay].”
Even if it’s more than 211 miles away from home in a different country.
“Baseball is all he has time for up there, but he’s loving it,” Brenda said. “Little kids always dream of being ball players. Thomas had that same dream.”
“It has all been very fun, I’ve enjoyed every second of it,” Thomas added. “I’ll play for as long as I can. Then I’ll get my kids going when they’re young.”