Matt Rogelstad (Photo/Seattle Mariners)
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Matt Rogelstad comes from humble beginnings, but he is confidant in his ability to succeed. That's part of the reason he's been able to put a dreadful 2004 campaign in the rear view mirror.
“I have not really come across any one pitcher that has blown my mind,” Rogelstad said recently after a loss to the High Desert Mavericks. “I have seen a real good pitch at a certain time but nothing that I think I can’t get out of.”
Rogelstad, playing in his second year with the Inland Empire 66ers, labored through a rough season last year where he batted only .246. He is now the batting average leader for the Inland Empire 66ers at .333 (as of Sunday) and there seems to be no end in sight to his brilliance at the plate this season.
“He just got himself in a slump last year and we knew he was a better hitter then what he showed us,” said 66ers manager Daren Brown of the 22-year-old. “He had a few strikeouts and that is not the type of hitter that he is.
“He is going to put the ball in play.”
Rogelstad found himself doubting his ability at times last year but he’s approached baseball this season with a whole new theme of confidence that is paying dividends. He was the recipient of the “Toughest to Strikeout Award” for Division I college players while at Arkansas State University, so he’s had proven success before. This season, he’s done his best to improve on his earlier accomplishments.
“I beat myself up a lot last year,” he said. “I pressed myself a lot. I tried to do a little too much throughout the season but you are going to get 400 at-bats a year and you just can’t beat yourself up. That is the mental aspect of it, being positive.”
A native of New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, he grew up around baseball.
“My father played professional baseball for the New York Yankees organization and then played semi pro-ball until he was in his mid 40s, “ said the beaming Rogelstad, whose father also owned a team after his playing days with an old teammate of his in the Northwest League.
Rogelstad remembers those times well, calling his earliest memories “being around the ballpark with my Dad and older brother who is 8 years older then me. Being in and out of the dugout, hitting with a wiffle ball.
“Roggie,” as he’s known by his teammates and coaches, has not had a glamorous climb through the ladder of professional baseball. He signed as a non-draftee free agent with the Seattle Mariners in 2003.
Undrafted out of high school, Rogelstad went to South Eastern Louisiana State for two years then, when the coach retired, transferred to Arkansas State, where he played one year after a summer stint in the Cape Code League.
Off the field, he loves to play golf, a game in which he claims he is “ still learning,” and he loves hockey, the national pastime of Canada. The National Hockey League, mired in a season-long strike, is missed by Rogelstad, who says, “ It’s definitely not a big positive influence for the sport. You hate seeing the guys locked out but their biggest downfall may be in the areas like Carolina or Florida where the game is not that big that they are going to have the toughest time bringing back fans when they do come back.”
Matt Rogelstad has been around the great game of baseball his whole life and he is proving to everyone that sees him that you do not have be a first round draft pick to be counted on for talent. The confidence was brewed in his humble up bringing, and is being displayed every night he steps on the field this season for the Inland Empire 66ers.
Angel Almeida can be reached for feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.