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  • Rogues embark on first season in WCL

  • So, who exactly are the Medford Rogues and what's their story?
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  • So, who exactly are the Medford Rogues and what's their story?
    The Medford Rogues are a first-year collegiate baseball team in the West Coast League, which boasts 11 teams in two divisions overall throughout Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. In its ninth summer, the WCL is widely considered the second-best wood-bat league to the East Coast's Cape Cod League. The WCL has player agreements with the Pac-12, Mountain West and Western Athletic conferences but also brings in players from across the nation.
    The Rogues are aligned in the six-team South Division that includes the Corvallis Knights, Bend Elks, Klamath Falls Gems, Kitsap BlueJackets and Cowlitz Black Bears. In the five-team North Division are the Bellingham Bells, Kelowna Falcons, Victoria HarbourCats, Wenatchee AppleSox and Walla Walla Sweets.
    A 12th franchise in Yakima, Wash., will be added to the mix next year.
    Players will be selected for a July 23 WCL All-Star game and are eligible for the all-league team announced at the end of the regular season. The top two teams from each division advance to the WCL playoffs in mid-August. Each division will play a best-of-three series, with the division winners squaring off for another best-of-three series to determine the league champion.
    Last year, Wenatchee won its fifth WCL title behind the play of league MVP Mitchell Gunsolus of Gonzaga.
    With an eye toward providing a complete fan experience along the lines people would get at a minor league baseball game, the Rogues play their home games at Harry & David Field and will have their games broadcast on ESPN 580-AM.
    As for the team itself, Rogues manager Josh Hogan said he has a list of four "shoulds" he expects his players to adhere to during summer play.
    "You should grind, you should have fun, you should compete and you should stand shoulder to shoulder," he said. "I'm not necessarily a results guy, I know these kids are giving it their all, but if they do all of those we should be fine."
    The bulk of Medford's main roster isn't expected to arrive until mid-to-late June as Division I players wrap up their collegiate spring seasons and make their way to town, with incoming players tied to programs from the University of Oregon to the University of Maryland and numerous schools in between.
    As for style of play, Hogan said he expects to let the players dictate the action in the early innings but isn't opposed to adopting a small-ball philosophy every now and then — especially given the spacious confines at Harry & David Field. The dimensions are 325 feet to the corners, 407 feet to the gaps and 400 to straightaway center field, with the wind typically blowing in and across from left field to right field.
    "We might have a few boppers on the team but I think there's going to be a little small game going on here, definitely with this park," said Hogan, who was manager of the Klamath Falls Gems last season and is in his seventh year as a player or coach in the WCL. "Kiger Field (in Klamath Falls) is definitely different, you can just hit the ball out whenever you want pretty much. Here it's a little more realistic, college-style baseball and I think it's going to fit into our coaching style really well though."
    Last year when Hogan and pitching coach Jeff Lyle were with Klamath Falls, the Gems set an all-time WCL record with 407 strikeouts against only 107 walks and a 4.20 team ERA.
    Lyle said it's difficult to know what to expect this summer until the players arrive and he's received all the information from their respective school coaches on the player's pitch counts for the summer.
    "When guys come in in the summer you never know what you're going to get," said Lyle. "They could've had a great spring season and by the time they get here are a little bit tired, a little bit worn out or here just for the summer thing. It all depends on the attitudes they come in with but, on paper, I think that we'll have as good of a staff as anybody."
    Lyle said his plan for the summer is to get as many pitchers involved as possible.
    "I don't like to rely on one guy," he said. "I ask the starter to go out and give us five or six solid innings, and then I like to bring three or four guys out of the bullpen in a day. I like to have a closer and setup guys like the big leagues are doing it right now. It keeps the numbers down (on their pitch counts) and keeps the numbers up of guys participating in the game, which makes for a better team when guys know they have the possibility to play."
    Rogues General Manager Chuck Heeman said Medford is allowed to dress 25 players per game but will likely carry around 32 players this summer. League rules dictate that you can only field up to four players currently on the same Division I team and up to four incoming freshman to that program.
    Heeman said players are only eligible to play four years of wood-bat baseball: coming out of high school and their first three years of college. He added that typically a team will return around nine players from the previous summer squad.
    The Rogues open their regular season on Wednesday with a three-game homestand against the Bellingham Bells. The regular season ends on Aug. 10, with playoffs beginning on Aug. 13.
    For more information on the Rogues, including a full schedule and ticket/merchandise information, go to the team's website at medfordrogues.com or call 541-973-2883.
    For more on the West Coast League, go to wccbl.com
    Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
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