Stephen Vogt produced his share of highlights in the first month of the River Cats' season.
He leads the team with a .429 average. He's hammered six home runs. He's blocked the plate as a catcher with a ferocity that belies his off-field good nature. But his greatest highlight this spring - and in a half-dozen parks during his minor-league tour - that he hopes someday lands him in the big leagues?
Escorting young daughter Payton around the bases after Sunday afternoon games at Raley Field. When scores of children take to the field to test those basepaths, there's Vogt, still in uniform, trotting in stride with giggly 18-month-old Payton.
Vogt has found a way to blend family - Payton and wife Alyssa - with the grind that is baseball. He's a full-time dad who doubles as a full-time baseball professional.
"One hundred percent, that's my greatest joy," Vogt said of his daughter, eyes widening for emphasis. "That's our Sunday tradition. This is her sixth or seventh park that she's run the bases in. As soon as you lose sight of what's really important, then you know you're done. This is something special that we do. I won't miss that opportunity to do that with her."
Vogt, 28, said he couldn't bear to watch his daughter grow up through images of technology on Facebook or Skype. You can't hug a laptop and receive the same amount of warmth and drool as you can with the real edition. And to understand baseball is to also understand that it is a vagabond existence. Movement is a certainty. In 2012, the Vogt family moved nine times. Alyssa has become an expert at packing up the place in a hurry.
"That's baseball, and we made a commitment that no matter where we have to go, we'll do it together," Vogt said. "In 2012, it was Washington state to Florida, Florida to Durham (N.C.), Durham to Florida, Florida to Durham ... it was crazy. My wife is the absolute saint here.
"It's even more of a grind for her. It's not easy sometimes, and you take it in stride, and we've learned over the years to downsize everything. We rent fully furnished places."
Vogt paused, then continued: "The biggest misconception about all of this is that we're in fantasy land with baseball. Is it a great job? Of course it is. But it's our job. It's our occupation. This is what we do. It's not a fantasy camp. It's life, and we're going to make sure we do it with family."
Vogt can't resist sneaking a peek into the Raley Field seats to acknowledge Alyssa and Payton between innings. Sometimes a wink, sometimes a wave. And always a postgame hug with his girls.
"She loves her daddy time and running the bases," Alyssa said. "It's a special time. People see him in uniform running the bases with her and say, 'Look, that's a pretty good guy!' It gives me a few moments to step back and watch my family."
Recently at Raley Field, Alyssa talked about her family experiences while keeping an eye on the ever-moving Payton, who wore a purple dress with leggings and sparkling silver shoes. Payton offered fist bumps and high-fives to anyone willing to return the favor. And she mimicked her base-running style, arms pumping, body in forward lean.
"She's all girly girl, but she's an athlete already," Alyssa said. "She can really throw the ball and run. Yep, definitely takes after her mom."
The Vogts like to rib each other. Both are chatty, well spoken and talk of someday returning to full-time coaching. Both have coached basketball part time.
The Vogts met years ago while attending Azusa Pacific, a small college in Southern California. Vogt was a two-time NAIA All-American and a 12th-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2007. He is one of six Vogts to play college baseball. His father, Randy, pitched at Fresno State. Two uncles played at UC Davis, including Mike Vogt, a member of the Aggies' All-Time Century Team.
But the MVP of the family is Alyssa.
Known as Alyssa Ferdaszewski, Vogt's future wife played all five positions in basketball at Azusa Pacific, scoring more than 1,000 points from 2004 to 2007.
Married to Stephen for more than five years, Alyssa still recalls their first date. Two motormouths suddenly on mute.
"Awkward at first, but we got better," Alyssa said with a laugh.
It hasn't all been fun. On March 31, the Vogts were in the midst of a drive from Port Charlotte, Fla., where the Tampa Bay Rays' spring training complex in located, when the phone buzzed. Vogt had been designated to Triple-A Durham. He was the Rays' Minor League Player of the Year in 2011 and appeared in 18 games with four starts with the big-league club. He was hitless in 25 at-bats with the Rays.
"It took 30 minutes for that to digest," Alyssa said of that call.
Said Vogt on his Rays' big-league experience: "It was a good taste of the big leagues. I got consistent at-bats. Overall, I felt good about it. I'm excited to get back up there. I know I can hit at that level. I know I can catch. I'm hungry for the opportunity."
Vogt was traded to Oakland on April 5. He settled quickly into his new River Cats surroundings, getting off to a blistering start. He said having a comfortable home helps soothe him.
"Oh, yes," he said. "It's neat to have a wife who understands sports and what I'm going through. We're partners in life. Whether it's parenting or work, she's with me. She's my best friend."
River Cats manager Steve Scarsone said a man at peace can make for a productive player.
Vogt is an example.
"I told Stephen that I did the same thing early in my baseball career because it was huge to have family together," Scarsone said. "Road trips are road trips, but compared to being away all summer from family, especially those first years with young kids, this is great."
Vogt especially lights up when baseball discussion includes Payton. He said his daughter is a quick learner. No more tutoring needed. She knows to go right toward first and not left toward the dugout.
"She knows exactly where to put her foot on the bag," Vogt said. "She's good. Really good."