Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate PHNX Sports Community!

Will Rogers shining with position switch to left field

David Rodish Avatar
April 15, 2022

When Arizona State freshman Will Rogers robbed USC’s redshirt senior Trevor Halsema of a home run in the fourth inning of Thursday night’s 14-12 ASU win, it was more than a run-saving play. It was a reminder of how far Rogers has come in a foreign position.

Rogers’ playing experience came at catcher before the 2022 season. During the offseason, Rogers worked to get comfortable playing in a spot he’d never played before. Prior to Thursday, Rogers hadn’t started in left field since March 29.

“I’m still not feeling fully comfortable; I’m still trying to work through a bunch of stuff,” Rogers said. “(Hitting) coach (Travis) Buck helped me a lot with that.”

Rogers is still learning the basics. He has worked on getting used to tracking fly balls, catching the ball at the wall and being decisive on his throws. Above all, he has to trust himself.

Redshirt sophomore Kai Murphy, who started at the opposite corner of the outfield, has seen Rogers’ transformation since the start of the offseason.

“I remember walking out of the stadium before the season and (Rogers) is taking fly balls from T-Buck after the scrimmage, trying to get used to left field,” Murphy said. “You think about that moment when he’s making plays like that. He really put in the work.

“He says he’s not comfortable yet, which means he’s got even more room to grow, which could turn into a really good defensive outfielder. Good defense fires me up.”

Through the first couple of games, Rogers admitted he had trouble adjusting to the position. However, manager Willie Bloomquist and coach Buck saw potential in him.

“Working with coach Buck, (he) taught me everything about outfield,” Rogers said. “I knew nothing coming in. Having guys like (center fielder Joe) Lampe and Murphy help a lot, too.”

While he wasn’t in the lineup, Rogers said he felt comfortable in the coaches’ belief in him

“(The coaching staff) were helping me in the (batting) cages,” Rogers said. “They said, ‘keep being ready, we’re just giving you a break right now.’ They were supportive of me and I never felt they were doubtful (of me) or anything like that.”

With the support of his coaches and teammates, Rogers has been able to adjust on the fly in his new position. He came up big against USC. It wasn’t just the robbed home run, it was his presence in the box. It was the bullet Rogers threw to third to prevent a run. His growth in all facets has been exponential.

“I can’t say enough about Will and how much I like that kid,” Bloomquist said. “He keeps his mouth shut, continues to work, and he understands he has some things to adjust from the offense standpoint.”

Rogers’ natural skills align perfectly with what Bloomquist wants to see at the position.

“The job he’s done and the plays he’s made is pretty impressive,” Bloomquist said. “The arm strength he has — I saw (Colon-Rosado) round second to go to third and I started laughing and said. ‘Watch this one’ and (Rogers) threw him out by 10 feet. I don’t think a lot of people know what kind of arm strength that kid has out there.”

At the plate, Rogers brought juice to an already hot offense. Against USC, he went 2-5 with a double and a home run. He was a part of ASU’s three home runs and 14 runs scored on Thursday. Four Sun Devils finished with multiple hits in the game.

During ASU’s poor performance against Stanford, ASU baseball alumnus and MLB legend Barry Bonds visited the team. Bonds’s advice to the team helped Rogers stay grounded at the plate.

“I’ve been really struggling, swinging at off-speed (pitches), not really sure what to think at the plate,” Rogers said. “He said, ‘Don’t miss the fastball,’ because every pitcher is going to throw that. That got me back, looking at the fastball.”

For coach Bloomquist, seeing Rogers grow on offense is just as impressive as his defensive improvements.

“He was really excited he hit a breaking ball tonight, it was good to see a big smile on his face,” Bloomquist said. “He was trying to get Travis’s attention, saying ‘I hit a breaking a ball.’ We know, it’s amazing when you let (the pitch) get up in the zone how much easier it is to hit.”

Being an outfielder and an elite hitter, Bonds is the type of mentor that Rogers can try to emulate. While Rogers still has a lot to work ahead, learning the nuances of the position, he doesn’t need to be Bonds. Bloomquist is happy to see his growth.

“Not bad for a backup catcher,” Bloomquist said with a smile.

Scroll to next article