Catcher Stephen Vogt retiring after 10 big league seasons

Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics
Getty Images
0 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. – Veteran Oakland Athletics catcher Stephen Vogt will retire after 10 major league seasons and a long, patient road to break into the big leagues at age 27.

Not to mention a nearly 15-month wait to finally get his first hit.

Vogt endured an 0-for-32 hitless streak to start his career that began in Tampa Bay and ended in San Francisco’s East Bay.

“It was like a year-and-a-half wait in between my first at-bat and when I got the first hit,” said Vogt, who shared his future plans with The Associated Press. “I couldn’t believe it had happened. It had been 32 at-bats and I was in my 33rd at-bat, got a pitch to hit and fortunately I got my first hit.”

It came at last on June 28, 2013, a line-drive homer off Cardinals reliever Joe Kelly to end the longest hitless streak to begin a career by a non-pitcher since Chris Carter began 0-for-33 with the A’s in 2010.

Even after all that, Vogt eventually turned into a two-time All-Star and earned his own signature chant of “I believe in Stephen Vogt!” from fans who appreciated his path and struggles.

The 37-year-old journeyman played for Tampa Bay, Oakland, Milwaukee, San Francisco, Arizona and Atlanta, joining the A’s for a second stint this year.

“Vogter is one of the most inspiring players I’ve ever managed,” said former A’s manager Bob Melvin, now skipper in San Diego. “What he means to a clubhouse is immeasurable – two-time All-Star, beloved in Oakland. One of my all-time favorites. Definitely has a future in managing.”

Vogt showed little emotion as he ran the bases for his first hit that day, aside from high-fiving third base coach Mike Gallego while rounding for home. Vogt’s father, Randy, had taught him humility and to pick his moments.

In fact, Vogt recalls only three times that he visibly celebrated a big hit with a triumphant fist pump or arm raised to the sky, and he asks his own children not to flip their bats.

“I remember I was a big Barry Bonds fan and I said, `Dad, why does Barry Bonds stand at home plate and watch?’ It was his famous spin the circle one when I was a kid,” Vogt recalled. “He said, `Stephen, when you have 500 home runs in the major leagues you can do whatever you want. Until then, you put your bat down and you run around the bases.”‘

One time Vogt made an exception came a few months after his first hit, in October 2013. He produced his first career game-winning hit with a single off Justin Verlander in the playoffs for a 1-0 win against the Tigers that sent the best-of-five AL Division Series back to Detroit tied at 1.

After striking out twice against Verlander, Vogt fouled off seven pitches in a 10-pitch at-bat that ended the seventh with his third K. Vogt’s next time up, he lined a bases-loaded single into left-center that won the game.

“For me, what it’s been about is persevering through adversity and persevering through being the guy that everyone always said, `Yeah, he could be good, but,”‘ Vogt said. “… If one person says, `Hey, if he can do it, I can do it,’ then that’s all that matters.”

He had left the Rays organization for the A’s on April 5 that ’13 season, traded back home to his native California and only a few hours from where he grew up in Visalia. Then Oakland designated the fan favorite for assignment in June 2017.

A major shoulder injury in May 2018 while rehabbing with Milwaukee cost Vogt that year and threatened his career, but he endured surgery and a long rehab to land with the Giants in ’19.

Last year, he began the season with the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Braves and winning a World Series ring even though he was injured for Atlanta’s championship run. Vogt loved still being part of it.

“I had a coach tell me, `Every day you take the field there’s a little boy or girl that’s at their very first baseball game and you need to show them the correct way to play,’ and I’ve taken that to heart,” he said. “And every night that’s why I run hard, that’s why I play hard. It’s the correct way to play baseball.”

And to be a dependable teammate. At the start of spring training 2017, Vogt approached young catcher Sean Murphy and took him around to meet everybody and set up his locker because “he didn’t want me to look like a rookie,” recalled Murphy, who cherished crossing paths with Vogt even when they no longer played together.

“Having him back this year is great,” Murphy said. “When I heard they signed him I was like, `Yes, awesome, I can’t wait to play with him again.”‘

Vogt hopes to keep leaving his mark by moving into a coaching or managing role. He has been learning from manager Mark Kotsay, Melvin, Craig Counsell and others along the way.

“I haven’t always been the best player. I’ve been one of the best players in the league, I’ve been one of the worst players in the league,” Vogt said. “I’ve been injured and everywhere in between, I’ve been DFA’d twice, I’ve been traded, I’ve been non-tendered, you name it. I’ve been the guy that knew he was going to have a job next year to the guy that had to fight for his job next year, and just always go out and earn it.”

In a season devoid of wins, it was Vogt who stood before his Oakland teammates after Tuesday night’s victory against Seattle and reminded everyone to celebrate at every chance.

“He felt passionate about it and spoke up,” Kotsay said. “Does he need to do that at this point in the season when he’s on his last 15 games? No, he doesn’t. But that shows his character and his love for the game, his love for his teammates. It came across loud and clear.”

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Getty Images
5 Comments

PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.