Nate Rogers hit just one homer in his career at Saint Michael’s College, but it was a memorable one. Rogers, a Cheverus High graduate, hit a walk-off homer in a 4-3 victory over Bentley on May 4 in Colchester, Vermont. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Nate Rogers’ story is a love story.

It’s a love of baseball, a team and a school. It has an ending that any script writer with an ounce of imagination would dismiss as hokey and unbelievable.

On the last day of his college baseball career, Rogers hit a game-winning, extra-inning, walk-off home run. It was the only home run of his collegiate baseball career. It was the only extra base hit of his career.

Anyone writing that would shake their head, delete it, and think of a different ending. The universe is not an editor. It liked the ending. Sometimes, the universe rewards persistence.

“I always just tried to be the best I could be,” said Rogers, who graduated from Saint Michael’s College last weekend with a degree in business administration. “That (home run) made it all worth it.”

May 4 was Senior Day for the Saint Michael’s College baseball team. The Purple Knights hosted Bentley for a season-ending doubleheader. Rogers was a reserve outfielder who saw little playing time in his four years. But Rogers, a Falmouth native and Cheverus High grad, worked hard. He was one of those guys every team needs, the guy the rest of the team sees working his butt off every day in practice despite knowing the playing time isn’t going to come.

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“Nate is the ultimate teammate. I appointed him a captain because of his leadership qualities,” Saint Michael’s head coach Jim Neidlinger said. “He knew he wasn’t going to play a lot, but he never became disgruntled. Nate’s a stand-up individual. He looked at the bigger picture.”

Maybe Neidlinger saw a little of himself in Rogers. A pitcher, Neidlinger toiled in the minor leagues for 6 1/2 seasons before finally getting his shot in the big leagues in 1990. Over 12 late-season starts with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Neidlinger went 5-3 with a 3.23 earned-run average. He was back in Triple-A Albuquerque in 1991. Those 74 innings in 1990 were Neidlinger’s only taste of Major League Baseball.

Rogers did everything right for four years but still spent games in the dugout like it was his apartment. On Senior Day, he had to play.

For his career, Rogers had just 94 at-bats and 11 hits. But he was there every day, mentoring teammates and keeping the team’s mood up, even as it struggled to win games in the early stages of a rebuilding process. In Rogers’ four seasons, the Purple Knights improved from 1-23 in 2021 to 11-30 this season. Baby steps, but progress.

When Rogers was due up in the bottom of the 10th inning of the tie game, an assistant coach asked Neidlinger if he was thinking of using a pinch hitter.

Nate Rogers received only 94 at-bats in his four years at Saint Michael’s College and didn’t have an extra-base hit until his final at-bat – a walk-off home run in the last game of his career. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“I said ‘No. It’s Senior Day. Let’s see what happens,'” Neidlinger said.

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Andrew Lanthier is Rogers’ friend, roommate and co-captain this season. Lanthier knows Rogers wanted to play more, but watched his friend embrace the role he was given.

“Nate’s one of kind. He shows up before he’s even supposed to be there. He does everything the right way,” Lanthier said. “It was hard on him, but to his credit, he stuck with it for four years.”

Rogers led off the bottom of the 10th and quickly fell behind 0-2. He worked the count full, then got a middle-in fastball and got his hands inside the ball. He knew he made good contact, but Rogers didn’t know how good. He sprinted around the bases, not realizing the ball was gone until he saw third-base coach Matt Meunier losing his mind with excitement.

“I’ve never seen him going so crazy,” Rogers said.

Neidlinger knew Rogers hit the ball well.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s wood or aluminum, you know that sound,” Neidlinger said. “I said, ‘Holy (crap) he did it.’ … If we could ask a kid to hit a ball perfectly, he couldn’t do it any better.”

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Rogers hit a couple home runs in high school, and a big one in the Little League state championship game when he was 12 years old and playing for Falmouth against Saco. But he never hit a home run like this.

“Our mouths dropped. Everyone was so excited. The ball never got more than 20 feet off the ground,” Lanthier said.

In four seasons, Rogers got no more than 32 at-bats in a season. He could’ve transferred to a school where he’d play more. During an early season game, also against Bentley, Rogers approached Neidlinger late in a game the Purple Knights were leading. It was one of his rare starts, but Rogers was suggesting his coach perhaps should remove him for a defensive replacement. Neidlinger left him in the game. Saint Michael’s lost through no fault of Rogers’; the bullpen faltered and surrendered the lead.

“Being named a captain, that was an honor, because off the field, I kept the guys up. I tried to show them how to do things the right way,” Rogers said. “I made a lot of friends. I have a lot of love for that school.”

Rogers will play this summer in the Sandlot League, a southern Maine league for players in or just out of college. He’ll soon start a 10-week management training program at the Portland Jetport. He’d like to coach baseball at some point.

Nate Rogers hasn’t lost his love for baseball. Think of him rounding the bases in a full sprint, oblivious that he just cranked the biggest hit of his life. Embrace the unlikeness of it all. This story has a happy ending.


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