Rogues brace for OSU invasion
It isn’t often that a baseball manager hopes for his team to lose, but all bets will be off Tuesday at Harry & David Field.
With a group of past, present and future Oregon State Beavers taking the field against the host Medford Rogues, first-year Rogues manager Bill Rowe isn’t exactly torn when it comes to his allegiances.
Then again, Rowe was instrumental in helping lead Oregon State to its first College World Series title in 2006 and has enjoyed a few years of coaching in the Beavers’ system to build some of the most meaningful relationships in his life.
As such, Rowe and assistant coach Parker Berberet will be setting aside their Rogues duties to compete with their Oregon State brethren for one night only this summer in what should be a treat for Southern Oregon baseball fans.
Berberet played two years for the Beavers (2010-11) and, like Rowe, returned to coach at OSU after his seven-year professional career in the Milwaukee Brewers organization as a catcher and relief pitcher.
Jamie Flynn, a former Rogues player and current assistant, will handle interim coaching duties for Medford.
“It’s going to be great, we’re really excited,” Rowe said Monday. “We don’t really get a chance to do anything like this up at Oregon State and we’ve been talking about it for a few years so this is kind of the first year where we’re going to make it happen. Hopefully it will be the start of a beautiful tradition.”
Tickets for the game, which starts at 6:35 p.m., have been sold out since a week after the special game was announced. It’s just another in a series of attempts by Rogues general manager Dave May to make the most of an independent schedule brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think there’s been a pretty consistent tradition of quality baseball players coming out of the Rogue Valley so there’s a lot of presence here of Oregon State fans and alumni and their families,” said Rowe, who batted .419 with four doubles, one home run and 18 RBIs over 13 postseason games in 2006. “I think just getting the opportunity to present a bunch of Beaver baseball players to everybody here again is really exciting.”
The list of those scheduled to represent Oregon State should elicit a host of fond memories for those on hand, from acting coaches Pat Barry and Brian Sackett to Rogue Valley favorites like Brent Watts, Rob Folsom, Chad Hegdahl, Max Gordon and Dylan Pearce.
Current Beaver players Joe Casey, Ryan Ober, Troy Claunch, AJ Lattery, Wyatt Young, Ben Steck and Jacob Melton have seen time with the Rogues but will be part of the OSU lineup, while Oregon State commit Isaac Hill from Hidden Valley High will also find his way to the Beavers’ dugout with former OSU standout Andy Peterson.
“We have a pretty decent team set up,” said a confident Rowe, who graduated from Ashland High in 2002.
With several Rogues players, as well as the two lead coaches, moving to the opponent’s dugout today, chatter among the group began to heat up over the weekend.
“They’ve already been grumbling in the dugout about it since the very end of the game Sunday,” Rowe said of his players. “They’re definitely excited.”
Rowe said he’s also gotten positive feedback from his 2006 teammates and those on the 2018 team he helped coach, as well as from maybe the most notable Beaver of them all.
“I spoke with Pat Casey this morning and everyone is just really excited and wishing us the best,” said Rowe. “I think in the years to come it’s going to turn into a really cool event.”
Rules for the nine-inning contest will essentially be the same as any regular season contest the Rogues have been playing thus far, with a couple exceptions.
“The only difference will be that our lineup will hit all the way around,” Rowe said of his OSU contingent. “We probably will also bend the rules a little bit in terms of substitutions on our side but I’m going to make the other team play a regular game straight up just like we’ve been playing so far in our first 15 (Rogues) games.”
By no means, however, is this expected to be a ceremonial showdown.
Too many top-tier competitors on each side of the field will make tonight’s matchup as competitive as any other.
“With guys like Andy Peterson, Max Gordon and Rob Folsom on the team, it’s definitely going to get a little chirpy out there for sure,” Rowe said with a laugh. “I’ve told those guys it’s a family environment and we need to keep it cool so it will be clean and it will all be in good fun, but yeah, it’s going to get rowdy. I’ll probably have a microphone in the dugout throughout the game, too, so I can just make fun of guys out front.”
In the spirit of competition, Rowe had no qualms about throwing out some pre-game bravado of his own. He and Berberet are slated for relief pitching duties tonight.
“My Rogues boys are terrified,” he said with a wry laugh. “They’ve already been hitting off me and Parker all summer and we’ve been shutting them down so they already know that we are going to dominate them. I think that they know that they’re going to have to play as hard as they can to make it competitive. They might get ahead of us if some of our pitching gets lackluster, but it’s definitely going to be competitive in my opinion.”
In all seriousness, Rowe has been impressed with the approach of his Rogues players all summer and doesn’t expect anything different in this game. Medford has posted a 12-3 record thus far, and will next open a four-game homestand Thursday against the Fresno Athletics.
“I’ve been really happy with all the guys,” he said. “We’re really focusing more on development as opposed to winning baseball games and they’ve all been working really hard. The winning is just a byproduct of playing the game at a really structured, high level.”
Prior to suffering injuries, Melton and Steck were hitting .444 for the Rogues. Medford has also enjoyed standout efforts all summer from Drew Steelhammer (.408), Josh Berman (.386), Young (.381), Vinnie Zavolta (.378), Omar Ortiz (.305), Jason Dumont (.294) and Caleb Schorr (.289).
Some inconsistencies on the mound have led to a 4.84 team ERA, but Rowe hopes that will settle itself soon, along with the occasional error that extends innings.
“It’s interesting being a head coach for the first time,” said Rowe. “You keep wanting everything to click for all the players in the same game and the more games that go by the more I have to just be realistic and know that it’s baseball and it’s probably not going to click for every player in one game all at the same time. If it does, that’s going to be pretty special, though.”
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