You often hear that the catcher is the “quarterback” of a baseball team. When you think about that, it couldn’t be a more spot-on comparison. The catcher has to know what the situation is at all times, as well as his job on the field at any given moment. In addition, the catcher is responsible for getting the entire defense onto the same page. Beyond that, the catcher is also responsible for having a good rapport with his pitcher. The bond between a pitcher and his catcher is very important, probably the most important, relationship in baseball.
Enter Jake Rogers, catcher at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
When he was young, the Canyon, Texas native started picking up the game of baseball. He had older brothers who were playing high school ball that he got a chance to work with and watch, which helped him grow in his love for the game of baseball. And he loves the game of baseball.
“Being around it, it’s the All-American game,” Rogers, now a junior at Tulane in New Orleans said. “It’s the game we all grew up watching. What is there not to love? I enjoy playing and I love being around people that enjoy and love the game.”
In November of 2012, Rogers signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Tulane, three months before his senior baseball season started.
“It’s a great academic program and they’ve had a lot of success,” Rogers replied. “They needed me and they wanted me to play which was a part of the recruiting process.”
In his first two seasons in New Orleans, Jake has been a star defensively. The catcher has thrown out 56 potential base stealers and backed that up with a .993 FLD%. He’s also turned 11 double plays. He led the entire NCAA in the 2015 season in throwing runners out. To put it in perspective, the combined average CS% of the college 1st Round catchers drafted in the over the past 15 years is approximately 34% and Jake Rogers is 54%.
After his sophomore season, Rogers made the trip to the premier collegiate summer league, the Cape Cod League. In the Cape, he caught 15 of 21 potential base stealers (71.4%). Perhaps more importantly, Rogers saw his offensive numbers rise as well. The catcher hit .274 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. He was offensive leader among Cape Cod catchers in batting average, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS.
“He fits all of the qualities that you look for in a catching prospect,” said Ron Polk, legendary former head coach of Mississippi State, who coached Rogers at Hyannis in the Cape Cod League. “Up at the Cape we have the best young ballplayers in the country, and I thought Jake was a leader. A very heady player, a great athlete who loves the game, and he’s very mature. He’s definitely a catch and throw guy, as his pop times in the Cape were consistently around 1.75, which is really, really good. He also calls a good game. He’s very intelligent and mature in the way he handles himself.”
Also while in the Cape, Rogers and Hyannis teammate Arden Pabst (JR catcher, Georgia Tech) got a chance to pass some of their knowledge to another young player, a catcher getting ready to tryout for Team USA. The three became fast friends. While the Harbor Hawks’ catchers were switching catching duties. One would catch the game and the other would work with the duo’s protege.
“He was an awesome kid,” Rogers said. “We would work on his receiving and the aspects of the game and teaching him what we’d been taught. It’s cool to see kids look up to you and have them want to play the game like you. It’s good to teach him what I’ve learned and pass it on to someone younger than me.”
“Jake and (Arden) Pabst did an unbelievable job with that kid,” praised Polk. “They worked with him, and groomed him. He couldn’t thank those guys enough. When you take a 13 year-old kid and make him your friend really shows you a lot.”
As we all know though, not everything in sports, and especially in baseball, comes down to what appears in the boxscore. Many times, it is something that won’t show up on the stat line that really determines a game. This is especially true when it comes to playing catcher.
“I like to think that I’m a good receiver,” Rogers said. “I like to think that I’m good at controlling the game, and controlling the running game. I take pride in having that guy on the mound being able to trust me. I take pride in him knowing that if that pitch is a strike or close to being a strike that it is going to get called.”
Rogers is entering his junior year at Tulane but is already garnering a lot of draft attention as a potential high pick. He admitted that he is very excited at the possibility, but is first and foremost focused on the spring season with his team and getting better every day.
“I’m working on my whole game,” said Rogers. “The most important thing has been being able to grow into the player that I am. Coming in, I knew I was mature enough to start as a freshman and I wanted to. Getting into the mental side wrapped around and being a leader on the field because I’m the catcher.
I went up to the Cape and everything starting coming around with my swing. I started feeling a lot better and the mental part of hitting came through,” the Canyon, Texas native said. “I think that everyone doubts that the bat is really there. I think it is. I want to prove people wrong and I think I did in the Cape.”
His summer coach, Ron Polk, who has seen good development since the first time Rogers took the field against him at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is very high on him as a draftee.
“He’s a first, second, or third rounder just because he can catch and throw and stop the running game,” Polk praised. “I’ve seen so much improvement in him from the first year that I saw him and the season he had last year in the Cape.”