How Giants' Tyler Rogers nearly became firefighter before MLB call-up

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Tyler Rogers had a 2.37 ERA in 2017, allowing just two homers in his first full season in Triple-A. The Giants prospect did not receive a call up to the big leagues that September. 

Rogers was even better the next season, lowering his ERA to 2.13 and raising his strikeout rate from 5.1 to 8.0 per 9 innings. When it came time to promote minor leaguers, Rogers was once again sent home.

Triple-A teammates quietly started to grumble that month. During informal conversations with reporters, they often would bring up Rogers, pointing out how unfair it was that he had not been given an opportunity, especially given the state of the Giants' roster. The chorus grew louder the next spring when Rogers again was nowhere near the big league roster competition, and he was asked about often as last season's call-up date approached. 

Then 28 years old, Rogers tried to ignore the possibility that he could be left out a third consecutive year. He put his focus on the field, but just in case, he started to prepare for life after baseball. Maybe he was just never going to get that opportunity. Maybe the Giants were always going to prioritize the low velocity of his fastball over the fact that few could actually square it up.

"It's funny, I was going to give myself to Sept. 1 before I got grumpy about the fact that maybe this wasn't in the cards for me," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "I was giving it four more days. I bought a book to prepare to test for fire departments. That was always my childhood dream, was to become a firefighter.

"There's firefighting in my family. I originally went to junior college to be a firefighter, so I was starting to dive back into those textbooks and get ready to test for fire departments that next coming month. I bought the book and the next day I got called up. I was like, 'I should've bought this book a lot earlier.' "

Rogers then went out and did exactly what his longtime minor league teammates had anticipated. He had a dominant September and followed that up with a strong spring.

There's a new coaching staff in place now, one fascinated by what Rogers can do with his submarine delivery and the different ways they can make him a unique weapon. It doesn't seem a coincidence that Rogers has been the closer in both "Out of the Park Baseball" simulations of one-run games Gabe Kapler has posted to Twitter this month. The new manager has high hopes for Rogers. 

"I think Rogers would be a really interesting guy to open up a game and go through five, six, seven batters left and right," Kapler told KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger, & Brooks" earlier this month. "And I also think he would be an interesting candidate to shut down a couple of right-handed and left-handed hitters in a row. I think whenever you're thinking about a guy who can close down a baseball game and a guy who can open a baseball game, you don't want them to be specialists, right?"

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That's a role Rogers is preparing for by throwing bullpen sessions into a net he bought on Amazon shortly after the sport was shut down. Whenever baseball resumes, he'll be in a big league bullpen, not a firehouse. But the latter actually might be where Rogers feels most comfortable. 

The Rogers twins grew up in firehouses. If Tyler had cracked open that book and gone that path, he would have become a fifth-generation firefighter, which would be the longest run in the country. 

Every man on that side of the family is a firefighter except for Tyler and Taylor -- both of whom are now big league relievers -- and they're not taking that responsibility lightly. The Rogers Family Foundation raises money and awareness for firefighters dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder in Colorado, where they grew up, and Minneapolis, where Taylor is the closer for the Minnesota Twins. 

"My most fond memories are when my dad was working on Thanksgiving or Christmas and we got to go to the firehouse," Tyler Rogers said. "The kids were climbing on the trucks and stuff. The tone would go off and they'd have to go on a call. We'd watch the trucks pull out of the bays with sirens on and everything and we thought that was so cool, but once we got older we realized all we saw was the cool sirens and stuff leaving the bay. 

"When they're going to a call where someone could be hurt or (there are) car wrecks or stuff like that -- me and Tay started realizing, 'Wow, I don't know how they can compartmentalize these things.' They may see a dead body and then they come back on Christmas and their whole family is at the fire station."

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The appreciation for what his family members have done has grown as Rogers has gotten older, and the last few weeks have been particularly eye-opening. That station he grew up at is facing a new kind of threat. Some of the firefighters who work with Rogers' dad have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) after being called to help others.

"You think about, okay, now he can't see his family for two weeks because he was helping other families," Rogers said. "That's really what it means to be a first responder or doctor or firefighter."

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