Wednesday, March 12, 2014
PORTLAND -- Hours before the Portland Sea Dogs begin play at Hadlock Field, the press box door opens and there is a pause.
Special bond: Portland Sea Dogs announcer Dean Rogers sits with his son Mark at Hadlock Field in Portland recently. Mark, who has cerebral palsy, operates the Hadlock Field message board.
Tim Greenway photo/Maine Sunday Telegram
Slowly, Mark Rogers makes his way up the slight incline, followed by his father Dean.
As usual, they are smiling, ready to go to work and take in another ballgame.
A father, a son, and baseball.
"The whole thing is really kind of cool," Dean said.
Mark can remember watching his dad play baseball, recalling a home run he hit at Deering Oaks in an over-30 league.
Dean has never seen his son play baseball, although they have tossed the ball back and forth.
"He can throw," Dean said. "Good lefty.
Mark rolled his eyes when he heard about his dad's comment. Yes, the two have tried to play catch.
"But coordination? That didn't happen," Mark said, smiling.
Mark Rogers, 36, has cerebral palsy. Maybe he can't play baseball, but the game is as much a part of him as anyone who has picked up a bat. He observes the game like a student, remembering players and devouring statistics.
And Mark Rogers knows where it all began.
"I've always loved baseball. My dad taught me," he said.
Dean Rogers, 65, a mainstay on Portland radio the past 40 years, has been the public address announcer for the Sea Dogs since the team began in 1994.
Mark operates the message board while updating statistics of each hitter.
Their Sea Dogs' duties are both part-time jobs. Dean is still on the air. Once the longtime deejay at WYNZ (100.9 FM), he now reads the news on WLOB and WJAB.
Mark, a graduate of Westbrook High School and Andover College, works in the business office at Century Tire in Portland.
Those are jobs, which they both enjoy.
But to get a rise out of either Dean or Mark, mention their shared gig at Hadlock Field.
"To be with my dad, that's what I love the most," Mark said. "And with Mom working here, it's a family thing.
Sharon Rogers works at the Sea Dogs gift store. She and Dean met while they were in high school, she at Deering, he at Cheverus. They will celebrate their 42nd anniversary next month. Mark is their only child.
And Mark almost didn't make it.
"When Mark was born, everything was fine up to a point," Dean said of the pre-delivery time. "I had (scrubs) on, the whole bit.
"Then all of a sudden, they checked Mark. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. They started to lose him. They started to lose Sharon. Things started to move pretty fast. The did an emergency C-section. The first time I saw Mark, he was blue."
Mark was not even four pounds, fighting for his life at Maine Medical Center.
"He stayed in the hospital and we went home. That is not the right way to do it. But he hung in there."
There would be complications, obviously, because of the cerebral palsy. Mark would need a lot of care.
"We were told by a doctor to put Mark in a special place," Dean said, and then paused.
Dean, normally mild-mannered and jovial, grimaced at the memory.
"We saw that doctor years later," Dean said. "It was all I could do not to say something, like 'You know, Mark went all through high school and through college.' But it wouldn't have served any purpose."
The Rogers found support groups, as well as the generosity of the Shriners. Mark eventually underwent 18 surgeries on his legs, 15 of them performed at the Shriners Hospital in Springfield, Mass.
"Our lives were pretty much centered around Mark, which was fine with us," Dean said. "It's not like he was born without the affliction and then something happened. This was all we knew and we took care of him. I give a lot of credit to Sharon."
But Dean was there, too.
"He's a very good dad, very attentive," Sharon said, adding with a laugh, "sometimes too attentive. Sometimes, he'd comb Mark's hair. I'd say let him do it himself."
Mark learned soon enough that he was expected to make an effort, despite the difficulty.
"I've been pushed, but I push myself in a lot of ways," Mark said. "I try anything within reason."
That "within reason" disclaimer applied to baseball. Mark knew early on that he could not play the game. But he could adore it. He watched his father play -- Dean founded the Southern Maine Men's Baseball League for players 30 and older.
Together, father and son watched the Red Sox on TV.
Then the Sea Dogs came to town. Dean, with his smooth and friendly voice, was the overwhelming choice for the PA announcer's job. Mark came to the games and the Sea Dogs staff invited him into the press box.
"I had a blast," Mark said. "I just kept to myself. It was a big learning experience."
In 1999, Mark was offered a job, sitting next to his dad. He's been there since.
"He likes hanging out, being a part of it," Dean said. "It's not 'he's Mark, Dean's son.' He's one of the guys, which is great."
But it is also great that Mark, one of the guys, happens to work next to his dad.
"You betcha," Dean said.
Next week, the father and son will take a trip to Boston. Since the death of Fenway Park announcer Carl Beane last month, the Red Sox have invited guest announcers to man the Fenway microphone.
Dean will announce the Boston-Atlanta game next Sunday. And the Red Sox have invited Mark as well.
"They are both so excited," Sharon said.
As for Father's Day, there is no Sea Dogs home game.
"Well probably go out to have some fried clams," Dean said. "And then catch a game on TV."
And where will Dean and Mark be when they watch baseball today?
Next to each other, of course.
Now that's a special place.