New Faces, New League, Same Home Team! Medford Rogues join a new league
In early June, the Medford Rogues started their fourth season (and, by presstime, already had NUMBER wins). In many ways, this season is a reboot for the organization—or, at least, the beginning to a second chapter.
During the off-season—which effectively runs the entire academic calendar, as the players for The Great West League are from college teams—there were tectonic shifts for the Rogues. The former General Manager moved to Florida, and Carolyn Birch, the former Assistant GM, moved into the Acting GM position. With only a three person core staff running the ship, the GM does particular everything from setting the travel schedule to picking the flavor of mustard for the park’s hot dogs—and, although this is her first time acting in this leadership role, Birch already has brought stability.
She is easy-going, yet confident. On a recent afternoon before the season began, Birch sat in the press box overlooking the field and explained she has worked for years with other amateur baseball and hockey teams. A high noon sun hammered down on the silver bleachers, and an unblemished green field fanned out towards the outfield walls plastered with banners from local sponsors (including, root for the home team, the Messenger!).
Not only was there a shift in the leadership for the Rogues, the Rogues also have moved from West Coast College League to newly formed Great West League. It is a significant, and promising, move. The Rogues are part of an emerging field of summer college leagues. Between the academic years, these college players tackle a brisk schedule of 60 games in 10 weeks in these summer leagues; about the pace of the major leagues. But, in their previous league, the Rogues also maintained a grueling travel schedule to keep pace with that schedule, including lengthy bus trips.
“This is a lot about how you manage your body,” explains Birch. “We don’t have the budget to send players on the corporate jet two days ahead (of a game) and to rest their bodies.”
She goes on to explain that last year’s season had started hot for the Rogues, but after on particular road trip that included a 16 hour bus trek, the team started to flag. They hit a long losing streak and, in spite of racking up a number of impressive stats, like leading the league in homeruns, finished with a mediocre record. In the new league, the teams are all along the I-5 corridor from Sacramento to Portland, meaning far less traveling. (The new league includes five other teams; Portland Pickles, Chico Heat, Lodi Crushers, Marysville Gold Sox, and Sacramento Stealth.)
As the Rogues enter their fourth season, they also are establishing some recruitment channels; in particular, with players from University of California-Santa Barbara, UC-Riverside, Winthrop and University of Oregon, where the Rogue’s coach Josh Hogan had played.
“No Beavers, just Ducks,” chimes in another member of the front office.
Unlike minor leagues, which serve as a temporary rest stop for talented players on their way to the Big Show, the college leagues are different in that players stick around for at least stick for at least one full season.
“We don’t hang out hat on player identification,” says Birch.
Even so, the opportunity for fans to connect with up-and-coming players is particularly keen draw. Last year, that standout was Dan Meyer, who came to the Rogues from University of the Pacific. At school, he had a middling year, but under the Rogue’s coaching and with the Medford team, the towering 6 foot, 5 inch outfielder blossomed, leading the WCC with homeruns (11) and led the league with his solid batting average (.325), which was testimony to his impressive 22 game hitting streak.
At presstime, Meyer was not listed on the roster, but about one out of three players do return, and oftentimes bring their teammates with them, if they had a good experience the previous summer—which, says Birch, the Rogues have been particularly good at providing.
“I’d love to talk a big game, and say ‘we’ll beat everyone,’” smiles Birch, “but everyone is starting new.”
For a full schedule, check out MedfordRogues.com. Their next home game stretch starts Monday, June 13.