Chapter 1– Chris Rogers
by, Nic Jacobsen
The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are wide-ranging; the medical, economic, and political consequences of the virus have been universally devastating. In comparison, the societal changes that have resulted from social-distancing measures can seem frivolous. Amidst a global health crisis, giving up short-term luxuries for long-term benefits is a clear necessity. However, the loss of sport represents, in many cases, not just the loss of a game. Rather, it represents the loss of an identity woven into the fabric of a community. Although baseball is fundamentally “non-essential,” that does not mean that it is non-impactful. A summer without Cotuit baseball is like watching your favorite movie, but some of the best scenes have been cut out of the film. Supporting characters have vanished, the setting has been manipulated, and the continuity has been disrupted. The tone of the Cape Cod summer feels, in some way, slightly foreign.
There is perhaps no bigger testament to the unique power of Kettleers baseball than Cotuit native Chris Rogers. Rogers, now a firefighter with the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department, grew up attending Kettleers games as a child. Playing and living in and around the sporting world as a young man was the catalyst for a life-long love of athletics.
“When I got off the bus [after school], I was gone,” recounts Rogers. Whether it be playing street hockey with his friends, or pitching lights-out innings with the Barnstable Babe Ruth team, there was never a time in which sport was absent from Rogers’ life. It was a love of being a part of a team — part of a community — that helped him to flourish athletically. After graduating from the Berkshire School, Rogers walked on to Stetson University in Florida to play Division I baseball. Although often pitching through injury in college, he showed enough promise to get the opportunity to play during the summers both in the Pacific International League and in the Cape Cod League for his hometown Kettleers.
“I had to fight through [injury] a lot in college because I was a walk-on and I needed to prove that I could play,” explains Rogers; “I threw until my arm was in pretty rough shape so that I wouldn’t get skipped over.” With the mindset of fighting for every opportunity, Rogers had a productive career at Stetson even while plagued by surgeries and setbacks. However, upon graduating, saying goodbye to the game and the life that had been a part of his DNA for so long was no easy task. Ultimately, Rogers’ roots in the communal aspects of baseball would help him turn to his next chapter.
“I always enjoyed the team and camaraderie (of sport)” he details, “so I decided to get into the fire service.” After completing fire school, he worked as a fireman in Florida for 6 years before moving back to Cape Cod. Rogers describes the firehouse as akin to a baseball clubhouse.
“You go through the thick and thin just like you do in sports […] but at the end of the day — you all come back together,” he says. While his career as a firefighter has been a uniquely natural extension of his days as an athlete, Rogers has found a special place in his life to preserve Kettleers baseball. Although he and his family would still attend games in the summer, it was not until two years ago when he decided to house players that he was fully immersed once again into Kettleers life.
“I have kind of come full-circle now,” Rogers ruminates as he chronicles his journey from childhood fan, to team-member, to host family. He explains that being a host for players is perhaps the most rewarding time in baseball that he has had in that he gets to share his experience with the players while watching them thrive at the highest level.
“I appreciate all those guys — because playing in it and watching from the outside years later — I know what it is like,” Rogers affirms; “Everything is magnified when you are playing on the Cape.” In many ways, he considers playing in the Cape League to be even more difficult than playing an NCAA season due to the depth of the rosters on the Cape. However, what really distinguishes this chapter of Rogers’ relationship with baseball is being able to share it with his family.
“With a family of five, it’s maybe the only thing that we can all agree on,” Rogers jokes. He explains that going to games has become a summertime ritual for his family; road-tripping to the away games, eating together at the parks, watching his kids chase foul-balls, and interacting with the players. In this way, baseball has transcended the idea of being merely a game. For Rogers and so many others on the Cape and across the country, it is a foundational piece of summertime; a congregation and a community; an ineffable link from our childhood past to our present and our future.
A summer without Kettleers baseball is, in the grand scheme of things, a trivial loss. A small price to pay. But what baseball affords a community is, in many ways, priceless. For so many, it provides a summer ritual. A home away from home. For Chris Rogers, it provided a direction. So to mourn the absence of Cape League Baseball this summer is to hope for its resurrection next year — for the return of an entity that brings us all together.
“It will come back even stronger than it was,” Rogers asserts. For the beauty of baseball in the summer, let us hope he is right.