05/26/2004 1:33 PM ET
Playing ball is Rogers' Maine goal
Small town right-hander hoping for successful draft
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
|Hurler Mark Rogers also excels at ice hockey, a sport he'd pass up for baseball. (Courtesy Student Sports)
Mark Rogers is used to striking out hitters, but they usually don't come to the plate already with two strikes against them.
That's the scenario the right-handed pitcher is facing heading into the draft. Rogers will have to overcome two strikes in order to get selected in the first round: He's a high schooler and he's from Maine.
In a draft reportedly heavy on college talent smack in the middle of a popular trend toward drafting college players high, taking a high-risk pick on a high school arm isn't all the rage. Rogers knows all about this but thinks he has the tools, both physically and emotionally, to be a fad-breaker.
"I'm aware of that, but I think a lot of draft status has to do with maturity level," Rogers said. "I think that's why the college kids are apt to go higher. They've gone through living away from home, having real life experiences, as they'd say. I think I'm at the level of maturity where I think I can play right now. If I can prove that to them, then hopefully they will be able to see that and it will enhance my draft status.
"It's entirely in their hands and how they see the situation, so I try not to think about it and control the aspect of the game I can control, which is throwing a baseball."
Rogers has been controlling that about as well as any pitcher can. Pitching for Mt. Ararat High School, Rogers has not yielded an earned run in 42 2/3 innings. In fact, he's allowed just four hits in that span, while striking out 111 against 10 walks. He had back-to-back 20-strikeout performances and the only game he didn't win was a no-decision in which he struck out 22. Video game numbers.
But what do they mean in the upper reaches of New England? That brings up strike two: his home of Orr's Island, Maine. It's a cold-weather state where hockey is the No. 1 passion and scouts rarely have trekked to in the past. Rogers' decision to play baseball -- he's a solid Division I college hockey prospect as well -- surely raised some eyebrows.
"The biggest thing is getting out of the state," Rogers acknowledged. "The recognition up here isn't as great as it is in the Sunbelt states, obviously. It's all the opportunity you can make for yourself. This summer was the biggest thing when I went down to North Carolina then out to California and got the exposure. Being up here, the opportunities aren't as plentiful and you have to make the best of the opportunities you do get because they are few and far between."
Now, scouts are making the journey to see each of his starts and he is listed as the 13th-best prospect in this draft class, according to Baseball America. That could mean a first-round selection and proof that Rogers is one heck of a two-strike hitter.
Education is clearly important to Rogers, as evidenced by his 3.9 grade-point average. But even though he signed a letter of commitment to the University of Miami -- the best place, he felt, to continue his baseball education if his senior year of high school didn't work out the way it has -- everyone knows that's a definite Plan B.
"I think that's safe to say," Rogers said. "Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to continue my education. The biggest thing that I want to focus on is baseball if I get the opportunity to play professionally.
"Hopefully, there will be time in the offseason to study and get time in classes, but the way I look at it is you only get the opportunity to play professional baseball once and I want to make the most of it if the opportunity does come. I think that's everybody's dream who puts on a glove when they're four or five years old, to play professional baseball. If I get the opportunity, I don't want to let it slip by."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.