Dennis Rogers Steps Down At Riverside 0

By LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Dennis Rogers, one of the greatest college baseball coaches in history, has retired from junior college coaching.

The skipper at Riverside City College for 25 years (765-383) led the Tigers to four California Community College titles, including three in a row, and 21 playoff appearances.

Ninety players signed pro contracts while 16 ultimately made it to the Major Leagues. Just as amazing, 18 former players and coaches went on to become instructors in college or pro baseball.

Overall, Rogers coached baseball on the high school, junior college, NCAA Division I or professional levels for 38 years.

Rogers was a master coach and did everything he could to prepare his players to perform at a higher level. He constantly searched for brilliant people in sports who could share their insight into elite performance.

He brought in such luminaries as mind expert Ken Ravizza of Cal. St. Fullerton who wrote Heads-Up Baseball with Tom Hanson, vision expert Dr. Bill Harrison, arm care experts Alan Jaeger and Ron Wolforth along with the remarkable John Scolinos, former Hall of Fame skipper at Cal. Poly Pomona.

In the never-ending quest for insight into how the mind can fine focus in stressful situations, he even tracked down Alex Honnold, the greatest free solo climber in the world.

Free solo climbing is without question the most dangerous sport in the world and involves scaling massive rock walls thousands of feet straight up without any ropes or protective gear.

The remarkable ascent of a free solo climber involves a person with no fear as he utilizes his shoes, fingertips and tremendous mental focus searching out small cracks to grab along the way.

The rock walls he scales throughout the world are incredibly intimidating.

With one slip, one heavy wind gust, one lapse of concentration, you are history as you fall thousands of feet to a horrible death.

You have no partner, no safety net…nothing.

At the age of 23, the 5-foot-11 Honnold pulled off an amazing feat by scaling the towering northwest face of Half Dome in September of 2008.

This nearly 2,000-foot granite wall towers above Yosemite National Park. And before Honnold free soloed this wall, nobody had ever contemplated doing it before because of the danger.

After seeing The Ascent Of Alex Honnold on the CBS news program 60 Minutes, Rogers became obsessed with tracking Honnold down to ask him how he was mentally able to perform in this fashion. Rogers also wanted Honnold to share this insight with his baseball players.

At the time, Honnold lived in the back of his van. Rogers’ daughter Brittany, who was working in Yosemite Park at the time and also was a climber, found Honnold’s vehicle and left a message on it to please contact her dad.

Honnold ultimately got in touch with Rogers, and a special presentation was set up for his players and coaches on how this young man defies death and has no fear at what he does.

While baseball players today at a young age don’t practice nearly enough to master skills and instead play game after game on the youth level and on club teams, Honnold trained to climb indoors for six years before he ever ventured outside to climb on rock walls.

“You could take a thousand things from Alex and how he learned to climb,” said Rogers.

“You can also relate what he does in life. The problem I have with athletes today is that they are pushed too fast at a young age. So many people believe that greatness must come quick because it’s there. But 99.9 percent of people don’t have this greatness quality. You have to slow down and do things correctly so there is a mastery of what we are doing.

 “In an individual sport such as free solo climbing that Alex does, you are the team psychologist, motivator, nutritionist and so on. You are the whole team. That to me says right there that it takes a lot more mental toughness and mental preparation and recoverability mentally than any team sport scenario.

“In watching Alex go through the process of free soloing the side of a mountain wall on the ’60 Minutes’ telecast, he analytically studies all the cracks and crevasses as he climbs it with ropes in previous ascents. As he goes up the face of the mountain with ropes, he then makes adjustments and re-climbs it over and over again until he feels that he can free solo it.

“It’s the same in baseball with adjustments. A pitcher is throwing fastballs and then comes in with curves with two strikes. The batter make adjustments. Then the pitcher will counter with adjustments of his own.”

Rogers said when Honnold comes to a point in a climb that becomes extremely difficult, he becomes more locked in at the task at hand.

“Then he is able to go to another zone immediately as far as focus. Alex sees something he needs to do and handle, so he zones in and does it. Alex told me he has this innate ability to know when he needs to focus on this higher level and respond to it. He told me when he faces these challenging situations, the adrenaline in his body doesn’t change. Alex has the ability of seeing a problem and doing something about it before it takes place.”

Rogers said it would be remarkable if baseball players could focus at this high level immediately when they needed to without adrenalin coursing through the body as the athlete remains calm like Honnold. It would change the dynamics of the game.

After all, a baseball game involves several hundred starts and stops with many players not totally focused at different segments. Rogers said if you compressed a typical game down to only the action involved, it would be about 12 ½ minutes.

To get clear picture of what Honnold does, go to the “60 Minutes” segment The Ascent Of Alex Honnold produced in 2011 at: https://youtu.be/SR1jwwagtaQ

To read more of this in-depth story on Dennis Rogers, purchase the Feb. 10, 2017 edition or subscribe by CLICKING HERE. The story explains the remarkable video system he implemented at Riverside City College in 2005 which was the most advanced system of any baseball playing school at the time as he had a state-of-the-art video lab for his players and coaches.

Rogers also coached with the great John Scolinos and explains what he learned from this Hall of Fame skipper back in the days when he only earned $3,100 a year for coaching. He also explains what he learned as a coach in pro baseball for seven years and the other big influences in his coaching career.