Major League Baseball
Pleasant View High School 1964
University of Georgia (baseball and basketball) 1964-1965
“The” Ohio State University 1972-1975
4th round pick in 1966
1st year in Minor League Class A Daytona Beach
2nd year High A Rocky Mount North Carolina
Detroit Tigers 1968 World champions (beat the Cardinals)
I would say that when I made the team in 1968 with the Detroit Tigers, I thought I was going to play baseball forever. I finally realized my dream, especially beating the Cardinals to be World Champions, however in 1969 when drafted by the Kansas City Royals, I had hurt my arm. I got to thinking that I needed to get back in there and probably pressed harder than I should have. This probably hurt my arm even more. Inside, I knew my life was going to change as I may not be there in baseball for 10-15 years like I’d have wanted to. As I reflect when I was just a 19-year-old in Daytona Beach, Florida playing baseball, I was probably going out a bit much, didn’t get a lot of sleep and pretty hard to corral myself as I was trying to make the most out of life. I also didn’t know where life was leading me at the time, but the man upstairs had a plan. I bounced around for some years and hoping there was something to help my injury but NO MRI’s back then or procedures that could help my issue. I just had lots of cortisone shots and took pills for my torn rotator cuff. This wasn’t the solution and I said to myself, “what am I going to do? What am I going to do?” Well in 1971 I got married to Karol and she turned my life around. She asked me, “what do you want to do in life?” I told her, “I like coaching and I like kids.” She encouraged me to finish school and get my degree and so I went back to school and worked odd jobs for money. After getting my teaching certificate, I then started teaching school. This was the plan, and this Is my role: being with kids, teaching and coaching. She knew I was disappointed that baseball was over. I was hurt and depressed and tried to hide. I thought my arm was going to come around, but it never did, but my teaching degree did happen and that was because of Karol. She turned my life around! She was my rock, and still is my rock! If Karol wasn’t in my life, I don’t think I’d have gone back to school. She is a blessing. In fact, we’re celebrating our 48th wedding anniversary on September 11, 2019. You don’t see that too often with marriages! I’m proud of this.
I thought I’d be a professional baseball player since I was 9 or 10 and didn’t think I ever needed school. Things happen. In my case it was injury, and at first, I didn’t have a Plan B. It’s so important for all kids who have this desire to play professional sports whether it be to play in the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL or any other professional sport to have a Plan B. You read about these high paid athletes that after 5 years of playing, how they’re broke! They have no other skill or plan. Being only an athlete seldom pays off. You don’t pitch forever as in my case. You need to think of your future.
Thanks Jon for sharing a bit of your story. I've known you and Karol for probably over 30 years and feel fortunate to know you both. Sometimes a Check Your Game moment takes place when others come into our lives like Karol did in your story. I can imagine how much it hurt that your baseball career was cut short, but making the choice to move on like you did after your wife helped you to see that your future with baseball and kids wasn't over yet through teaching and coaching was a great choice! Many times, especially when we're in unchartered territory, like you moving on from your sport, it's not easy to truly listen to others. Great decision to listen! I hope others who might have a story similar to yours in regards to injury, will be encouraged that life isn't over because a sport/passion in another area is finished, but that it's a new opportunity on just a different path or just time for Plan B! Your path has been great and more than likely has affected more kids and adults in life than if you played baseball for another 15 years! -Gary Rogers