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Rogers arrives at Miller Park06/22/2004 8:33 PM ET
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Some pretty good ballplayers have donned No. 8 for the Milwaukee Brewers over the years, from Mike Hegan in 1970 to Mark Loretta through 2002.
The newest Brewer had different reasons for picking it, and they had nothing to do with baseball.
"I wear it because of Cam Neely," said first-round draft pick Mark Rogers, who visited Miller Park on Tuesday and donned his jersey for the first time. "I always admired him for his work ethic."
In a career cut short by a chronic hip injury, Neely played 10 of his 13 National Hockey League seasons with the Boston Bruins, about 130 miles from Rogers' home in Orr's Island, Maine. Hockey fans debate Neely's candidacy for the Hall of Fame the way baseball fans argue about Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo.
"He should be in," Rogers said. "Unfortunately, he had a lot of injuries, but always battled through them and came out OK. He's just a good role model for what he did on the ice, and off the ice."
Rogers knows his hockey. And his baseball. And soccer, for that matter. He captained all three teams at Mount Ararat High School and graduated last weekend with a 3.9 grade-point average.
Now, he'll have to settle for being a fan of hockey and soccer, because baseball became Rogers' profession when he agreed to a $2.2 million signing bonus with the Brewers last Friday. On Tuesday, he underwent a physical ("I became a science experiment," he joked) and met with general manager Doug Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, as well as Brewers players and coaches in the clubhouse.
Then it was off to the Arizona Rookie League, where Rogers hopes to prove that kids from cold climates can play ball, too.
"I want to go out and give a good representation of what -- not just Maine -- but what Northeast baseball can be like," he said. "Of course, we're at a disadvantage because of the weather, but if you take advantage of the facilities indoors and really strive to be the best you can be, anybody can reach their goals. I'm sure people will be out there that doubt me.
"Growing up in Maine, you have a lot of different experiences that other people don't," he said. "My dad is a lobsterman so I've grown up having to work for everything I've got. With that in mind, going out to play baseball, you carry the same work ethic with you.
Rogers' mother, Stephanie, said Mark was seven years old when he started working with his father, Craig. He hauled lobster traps every summer until last year, when baseball became a priority and Rogers participated in showcases around the country. His younger, brother, Scott, will be helping Craig this summer.
"I think my dad has the toughest job you can have, going out every day at 5 a.m. hauling lobster traps,' Mark Rogers said. "It doesn't get any more difficult than that. So I feel very fortunate that I get to go out and do what I love for a career when my father has to go out and really bust it every day."
The Arizona Brewers begin their season on Wednesday night. For the first time in Rogers' life, his Dad won't be there to coach.
"He knows that where I'm headed there are some better coaches than him -- sorry, dad," Rogers said with a big smile. "He'll keep me updated on what he thinks. I'm positive of that. But he's handing me over to other hands, and we're just lucky to be in this situation."
The Brewers were the first organization to show interest in Rogers when scout Tony Blengino approached the family at a Perfect Game showcase last summer in Wilmington, N.C.
Only one high school player went higher in this year's draft. With the first overall selection, the Padres took local shortstop Matt Bush, who was arrested in Peoria, Ariz. over the weekend following an incident at a sports bar.
The Brewers do not expect similar transgressions from Rogers.
"I think you guys can see today that he's got his stuff together pretty good," scouting director Jack Zduriencik said. "Add that on with his ... physical ability, he could be a pretty good package for the Brewers. He says he's excited, but we're excited for him."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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