It felt like a thousand mini-knives tearing into his flesh when a five-foot-long bull shark sunk its razor-sharp teeth into the foot of Chad Rogers
off the coast of Galveston, Texas, one year ago.
Rogers, a 5-foot-11 right-handed pitcher with the Dayton Dragons, had just been drafted by the Reds and was out surfing the day before a workout with the organization.
"I was sitting on my surfboard and the next thing I know, the shark grabbed my foot," Rogers recalled. "I was like, this is really happening. After that, I went Superman on the board and tried to get all my limbs out of the water. The shark swam right in front of me. I saw the fin, and I was looking right on top of it. I just wanted to get on shore and get to the hospital. I didn't know how bad my foot was."
Rogers ended up needing 60 stitches. Instead of pitching for the Reds the next day, he couldn't throw a ball for nearly two months."
"I felt it latch onto my foot," Rogers said. "It didn't feel like it was going to let go. I've never had my adrenaline kick in like that before. As soon as he swam right by me, I paddled in. Once I felt safe, I took a look at my foot. There were just a bunch of jagged gashes on the right side and my big toe was sliced up. At that moment, all I was thinking was hospital.
"I should have just laid on the beach and waited for an ambulance, because once I hopped back to my buddy's truck, that's when I almost passed out," Rogers recalled. "When I got in the truck, that's when the pain really hit me and my foot started throbbing. It was a whole new experience of pain for me."
Rogers lost a significant amount of blood but did not have any permanent ligament or nerve damage. Drafted in the 28th round in 2010 out of Galveston College, he figured his shot with the Reds was over and planned on attending the University of Houston.
"I was worried my scout, Jerry Flowers, would say, 'All right, bud, I guess we'll see you next year,' but he was cool about it," Rogers said. "He was like, 'I've never heard that excuse before.' He couldn't believe it.
"I sent him the pictures. He said, 'As soon as you get on your feet and feel you can throw, give us a call.' I got my stitches out late in July and called the scout Aug. 1. My foot was still swollen. I threw in a sandal for a week and then went August 11 and threw and showed them what I had. I signed August 14."
Rogers worked hard in the offseason to make up for lost time. He showed up at Spring Training and didn't make the Dragons' roster. He expected to be sent to Billings, but when an opportunity popped up in Dayton, he got the call.
"I just had the will and the drive to want to play professional ball, and I was going to work hard," said Rogers, who is 0-2 with a 4.29 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. "I wasn't going to let a shark stop me from doing that. If the shark bit my foot off, obviously, I'd be done. But I got lucky. All it did was bite me. As soon as I kicked down, it let go. I thank God I'm here. If I wasn't on a surfboard, it would have been a lot worse."
Even a shark bite can't stop Rogers from getting back in the water, either.
"I've been out surfing five or six times since then, but I stay away from that beach," Rogers said. "It's a passion. I'm not going to stop doing it unless it took my foot and I couldn't do it again. It's like if you're pitching and somebody hits you in the head with a line drive. If it doesn't kill you, you get back up and pitch again."
Mack Jenkins, the Reds' Minor League pitching coordinator, said the organization did its homework on Rogers and thoroughly checked medical reports before signing him.
"We knew he was going to be fine -- he just had a lot of stitches," Jenkins said. "He's catching up. He throws hard; he throws strikes. He has the right attitude for a pitcher. He's not afraid to throw the ball over the plate. Heck, he's fearless -- he swims with sharks."
Time issue: Clinton's Anthony Phillips scored on a sacrifice fly following a controversial play in the top of the 10th inning that helped give the LumberKings a 4-3 win against Fort Wayne on Tuesday. Phillips opened the inning with a double, then took third as the next batter, Kalian Sams, walked to his third-base coach and the TinCaps infielders held a meeting on the mound. Fort Wayne argued that time had been called, but the umpires ruled otherwise and allowed Phillips to stay at third. Sams then lofted a fly ball for the decisive run.
Feeling at home: Peoria played 19 of 22 games at home from May 4-26 and took advantage, going 14-5 in the friendly confines of O'Brien Field. During the homestand, Cubs assistant to the general manager and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux worked with the Peoria pitching staff, which is third in the league with a 3.27 ERA.
Rainy spring: Midwest League teams have been hit hard by rain this season. The South Bend Silver Hawks have had 10 rainouts and played in seven doubleheaders. Pitching coach Wellington Cepeda said the scheduling changes haven't affected the team too much, though it can take a toll on the bullpen.
"It gives the players more rest," Cepeda said of the unscheduled days off. "It's tougher on the relievers. Starters get their bullpen work in, but the relievers, it's tough for them to get into a rhythm. Sometimes, they have five or six days without throwing. That causes some problems command-wise, but we're used to it. We have a routine when we have a lot of rainouts."