The three-story house in Paducah naturally has a basketball hoop out front. This is Kentucky, after all.
But open the garage door at the Roof residence and you will find something else.
A batting cage.
Jonathan Roof, one of the newest Portland Sea Dogs, grew up in that house. His two older brothers played professional baseball, as did his father, four uncles and a few cousins.
“The stories at family reunions are pretty interesting,” Roof said.
The brothers and dad are still in the game. Gene Roof has been a coach in the Detroit Tigers’ organization for nearly 30 years. Oldest son Shawn is a coach with the Orioles’ Class A team in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and next-oldest Eric is coaching at Michigan State.
That leaves Jonathan, 25, as the only Roof still playing, in his first year with the Boston organization.
“Hopefully he’ll be able to open up some eyes,” Shawn said.
So far, so good. Roof was promoted from Class A Salem two weeks ago and is batting .357 in his first time in Double-A.
Normally, baseball-playing families don’t get together much during the season because they’re so busy.
But Gene Roof has a delightful Father’s Day planned. He and his wife of 30 years, Marianne, will watch daughter Jacqueline play in the Kentucky High School All-Star Game – did we mention that Jacqueline was the Kentucky Class 3A softball player of the year?
After the game, all three will drive to Erie, Pennsylvania, and meet up with Jonathan, whose Sea Dogs bus will be pulling in from a day game in Akron, Ohio.
Also, Fredericksburg begins its All-Star break Sunday night, so Shawn is also headed to Erie.
The Sea Dogs begin a three-game series Monday against Erie, the Double-A affiliate of the Tigers. Gene Roof, the Tigers’ roving base-running instructor, set a visit this week.
Father and son will lunch together, and it will save Jonathan a daily phone call to Gene.
“I call my dad every day,” Jonathan said. “We’ll talk about my at-bats, what I did right and what I did wrong, so I can learn from them. We always talk about the game and what I can improve on.”
The game has always been central to the Roof boys. That and Marianne.
“She gets most of the credit for all this,” Gene said. “She did all the hard work; take them to school, to practice, to weekend tournaments.”
Gene Roof grew up on a farm in Paducah, with a population of about 25,000 across the Ohio River from Illinois. He was one of 10 children. Phil, Paul, David, Adrian and Gene played pro ball, Phil and Gene reaching the majors.
“No rhyme or reason to it,” Gene said. “We grew up on a farm. We were fortunate and lucky enough to play pro ball.”
Phil, 73, played 15 years in the majors as a catcher, finishing with the Blue Jays in 1977. He managed in the Twins’ minor league system until 2005.
Gene, 56, played 48 games over three major league seasons with the Cardinals and Montreal Expos from 1981-83. An outfielder, he finished his career in Triple-A with the Tigers in 1987. He’s been with the Tigers since, including as first base coach from 1992-95.
Since 2000, Roof has been a roving instructor, giving himself flexibility with his schedule – that is, time to see his sons play.
Despite their dad’s background, the sons never felt pressured to play.
“He never forced it on us,” Jonathan said. “But we obviously had an interest in it.”
Indeed, their home contained no memorabilia from Gene Roof’s days as a major leaguer.
“I didn’t put any baseball stuff in the house,” Gene said. “I didn’t want them to think they had to live up to a reputation.”
But there were expectations. “Work hard and get your education,” Gene said.
Shawn attended the University of Illinois before signing with the Tigers. Eric played against him two years later while with Michigan State. He also signed with the Tigers.
Jonathan, like his father and brothers, attended St. Mary’s High. Despite being only 6-foot-1, he centered the basketball team – “we were quick,” Jonathan said.
But like his brothers, he truly excelled at baseball, a solid hitter and shortstop.
The Red Sox noticed Roof and drafted him in the 39th round in 2007, but couldn’t convince him to give up his scholarship.
“It wasn’t much of an offer,” Jonathan said. “I still had some growing to do. We thought it was better to go to college.”
From Michigan State, Roof was drafted by the Rangers in the eighth round in 2010, signing for $125,000. But they let him go after two years and he played for the Padres in 2012.
Jonathan followed family tradition and signed with the Tigers before the 2013 season. But Detroit had no place for Jonathan and traded him to the Phillies before the season.
This offseason, Boston grabbed Jonathan in the minor league raft.
“Going to a different team every year is not the career you have in mind,” Jonathan said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play. Anytime you have a uniform on your back, you have a chance.”
Gene Roof says this:
“He’s got a little more rhythm and timing (in his swing), and he’s stronger. … Hopefully he can keep it going. I’ve haven’t seen him play since spring training.”
Baseball and family. It could not be a better Father’s Day for Gene Roof.