REGGIE HAYES: Leo baseball coach a familiar face in new locale
For the first time in 32 years as a high school baseball head coach, Gary Rogers won’t have to drive to his home diamond.
He can walk out the Leo High School door next spring, head to the field and get to work. He’s not going to know what to do with the extra time to invest in actually coaching baseball.
“This has kind of rejuvenated me a little bit,” Rogers said. “I’ll have my own field to take care of.”
Rogers, 61, spent the last three decades-plus as Bishop Luers’ head coach, a consistently successful run that included a 2008 Class 2A state championship. That title team’s roster included future Major League Baseball Gold Glove winner Kevin Kiermaier.
Rogers, who is also well-known for his long-time devotion to Wildcat baseball in the summer, loved coaching at Luers, except for the fact the school does not have a baseball diamond.
For years, the team would practice at McMillen Park, then later at Indiana Tech, which became the Luers home field for games. Rogers, a guidance counselor, worked at Harding High School during much of that run. He switched to Leo after Harding closed as a high school in 2012, making his commute to Luers even longer and the daily routine that much more of a consistent headache.
When Dave Boyce left this past summer as Leo baseball coach to become the athletic director at Woodlan, Leo athletic director Brock Rohrbacher dialed Rogers’ number.
Rogers could finally have his cake and eat it, too. Or, in baseball terms, he could have his field and rake it, too.
“It was a tough decision,” Rogers said of leaving Luers. “The biggest factor is I’m a guidance counselor at Leo – and the fact that for once in my 32 years, I’ll have my own field. That was something I thought I’d like to try.”
Through those years of running the Bishop Luers program, Rogers had to be sure he owned a van or a truck with a cab so he could haul equipment to practice and games. He had to make sure he had a place to practice. He had to alter games at the last minute sometimes when Indiana Tech had a game rained out and needed to use a date initially reserved for Luers.
Rogers was seemingly always prepping for his baseball team to be on the road – even when it was officially at “home.”
Rogers has a story he’s told many times, but it’s an apt one, about his 2008 team earning a local media award for “Team of the Week.” The outlet’s young reporter asked to stop by practice with the award and pizza.
Practice came and went and the reporter was a no show.
“He finally calls me and says, Coach, I’ve been driving around Luers and I can’t find the field,” Rogers said. “I told him, I’ve been driving around for 22 years and haven’t found it.”
The opportunity is about more than just a field, of course. It’s a chance to be on sight with his players throughout the day. Rogers started his career as an assistant coach at Bishop Dwenger, then moved to New Haven and finally to Bishop Luers as an assistant. A year into his Luers’ time, he was promoted to head coach.
Yet he was always somewhere else during the day.
“I’m really looking forward to working with the kids out here,” Rogers said. “Since my first year, I haven’t been in the same building as my players.”
The only local coaches with similar or longer tenures than Rogers had at Luers are Dave Bischoff at New Haven and Dean Lehrman at Heritage.
Rogers is back to being a rookie of sorts.
“It’ll be kind of nice not to have to change shirts,” Rogers said. “You couldn’t wear Luers stuff at Harding or Luers stuff at Leo. It was always kind of a traveling road show. I’m excited. I think of all the kids I’ve coached at Luers and that made it tough to decide. But it was just time to make a change.”
Rogers can’t wait for spring. In 32 years as a baseball coach, he has never been more excited about a walk.
This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Reggie Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.