Stephen Vogt doesn’t want to be here, but he is.
And the 29-year-old catcher will make the best of his return to the River Cats after getting squeezed out in a numbers game with the A’s because attitude and class define his character. With Sacramento, Vogt will continue to fine-tune his game in an effort to return to Oakland. He vowed Monday he’ll pour his heart into the challenge, though he won’t “hold my breath.”
Patience is paramount in this sport.
Coaches and managers relish guys such as Vogt. They’re never a problem. Their body English isn’t sour, as often is the case when players get sent to the minors after time in the bigs. The weather for Vogt’s first day back at Raley Field was glum, a sharp contrast to his good cheer. Days after fighting back tears when A’s manager Bob Melvin told him he had been optioned to Sacramento, Vogt stood proudly outside the River Cats’ clubhouse.
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This isn’t Vogt’s baseball ending. It’s a new beginning.
“Attitude is huge,” Vogt said. “The only two things you can control in this game are your attitude and effort. I’ve lived that motto in my career. I can control playing hard, leading, no matter where I am playing. That’s something to hang your hat on. It’s, what legacy to do want? A coach once asked me how much I’d pay to watch myself play ball. That really hit me. You give everything you have, and that’s the way I’ve always been.”
Melvin said optioning Vogt was his toughest decision as a manager. Melvin assured Vogt he’s a big-league catcher stuck in a rotation that includes incumbents John Jaso and Derek Norris, who again will platoon for the A’s this season.
After a sizzling start at the plate for the River Cats last season, Vogt was called up last June. He played in 45 games with the A’s, starting 40. He started all five games in the American League Division Series against Detroit, seamlessly blending in with his new teammates.
Vogt’s first major-league hit was a home run against St. Louis, and the way his teammates initially ignored him when he returned to the dugout, then mobbed him, was a reminder of baseball’s brotherhood. Vogt was mobbed again after his walk-off single beat the Tigers 1-0 in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Vogt realized his dream as a classic grinder who went from his hometown of Visalia to small-college Azusa Pacific to 12th-round pick with Tampa Bay to Raley Field to the A’s.
Vogt wouldn’t be a competitor if this assignment didn’t hurt.
“Now for me it’s not a matter of proving I can do it – it’s a matter of getting back,” Vogt said. “I’ve accomplished everything I dreamed of. I caught in the postseason with the A’s, had a walk-off hit in the playoffs, played for a championship team. Now it’s, how how many times can I get back to the postseason?”
Vogt paused before continuing.
“I’m frustrated. But you can’t handle it any other way. If you let frustration and bitterness come in, you’re done. It’ll erode you. It’s OK to be upset and frustrated, but you can’t stay that way. When the light comes on, it’s game time. … I’m excited to be in Sacramento. Good people here, good fans, good team.”
River Cats manager Steve Scarsone said Vogt “will be the heart and soul of this team by the way he plays, how he leads. His attitude is outstanding, as it always is.”
Vogt appreciated Scarsone’s endorsement.
“It’s a huge compliment,” Vogt said. “I’ve been a leader on every team I’ve played on. It’s something you’re born with.”
Vogt was a fan favorite at Raley Field last season. Fans appreciated his effort and his generosity signing autographs and posing for photos. And fans were charmed by the view of Vogt’s daughter Payton running the bases with him after Sunday afternoon home games as his wife, Alyssa, watched.
Payton is 21/2, and she doesn’t care were pops plays, as long as she gets to see him. Mention his wife and daughter – his real life – and Vogt lights up.
“Oh, they’re doing great, and they’ll be here every day,” Vogt said. “We’re looking for a place to live. We’ll make the best of it.”