February 12, 2007


Michael and Gary Ignasiak, Gene and Gary Rogers.

Baseball, at one time, was referred to as America's "National Pastime". Stooltime Counseling has the bases loaded with this article! Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Commentator for the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, once described baseball as, "Simple as a ball and a bat, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes". I interviewed four accomplished gentlemen for this article, all of whom played baseball at different levels in their lives. Their answers to my questions shed insight into Ernie Harwell's premise that the game of baseball is both "simple" and "complex". Allow me to introduce to you Mike Ignasiak, Gary Ignasiak, Gene Rogers and Gary Rogers.

Mike Ignasiak played baseball as a kid growing up on a farm in Anchorville, Michigan. He continued to play thru high school, college and the Major Leagues. At Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep school, Mike played shortstop and pitcher. He went on to fine tune his pitching skills at the University of Michigan before being signed to pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Gary Ignasiak, Mike's older brother, describes himself as, "Strictly a left-handed pitcher". He, too, played the game at a variety of levels ranging from recreational to elite. Little league, high school and professional ball show the ladder of baseball opportunity Gary climbed. At the top of the ladder, Gary joined the Detroit Tigers organization.

Gene Rogers began his baseball career at the age of six, when he played little league ball until the age of twelve. He went on to play in different leagues in addition to the high school and college levels. At 16 years of age, his fastball was clocked at 90 mph plus in addition to having an off-the-table curve ball and dazzling slider. Pitching was Gene's talent that caught the attention of Vanderbuilt University, Central Michigan University and a scout from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gene decided to stay close to home to attend Macomb Community College, where he said, "My career in baseball ended".

1976: Clintondale Dragons Varsity Baseball Team. Gene Rogers showing how "touching the dirt" is part of his follow-through when pitching a baseball.

Gary Rogers, Gene's older brother, and another south-paw like his cousin, Gary Ignasiak, played at the little league level thru high school at Clintondale. Gary played the outfield and first base positions until finding his niche as a pitcher. His pitching skills led to his name becoming enshrined in the 1974 edition of, "Athletes Of The Year". The hard cover book can be found at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Each of the four accomplished gentlemen was asked ten questions. Here is how I presented my request to them:

Please answer the following questions to the best of your ability. Your answers will be included in a new Stooltime Counseling article to be posted on the internet with eventual inclusion to a self-help book, based on the Stooltime Counseling website.

Keep in mind the target audience when responding to the questions. Stooltime Counseling is a main-stream, self-help website that encourages people to strive to reach their human potential. Your answers will probably be read by people who are interested in what it takes to play major league baseball on down to the person who wants to play recreational baseball.

Each of you, Michael and Gary Ignasiak, and Gene and Gary Rogers, have accomplished something related to the world of baseball. Other people will be interested in reading your story. Each of you is related to me in some way, either a cousin or a brother. I will take pride in reporting your story to the best of my professional knowledge. I will use your information and write the self-help article so that others who read it can learn by way of your example(s).

I want to thank each of you in advance for considering to be a part of this Stooltime Counseling article.

Questions & Answers:

Tell me about your interest in baseball. How did you know you wanted to play baseball?

Mike Ignasiak: "As kids growing up on the farm in Anchorville, we played all kinds of sports. Baseball during baseball season, football during football season and basketball during basketball season. Our entire family played sports. I would say about my freshman year in high school, I realized that I was too small to play basketball after high school. I really did not want to play football after high school because I did not like waking up the day after a football game and being unable to move because my body hurt too much. About this time, I started to realize I was a much better baseball player than anything else. I was better than most, threw harder than most, and for some strange reason, had no fear when it came to the game. I knew what I had to do, and God had given me the ability, so I always figured I could do it."

Gary Ignasiak: "I always enjoyed it as a child, and was good at it. Baseball was fun and I was fortunate to have brothers to play with."

Gene Rogers: "Baseball was the sport to play while growing up in the '60's. Fun was the main objective during that time period, so it didn't matter if you won or lost the games. I had fun! Obviously, this sparked my interest in the sport. With my interest and natural ability, I was fortunate enough to have coaches who challenged me to try every position on the field."

Gary Rogers: "My interest in baseball started when I was very young. Swinging a bat, throwing a ball came very easy for me. God gave me the talent."

Who among your family and friends was instrumental in helping you realize your dream to play baseball, either while in school or in the major leagues?

Mike Ignasiak: "I would say first and foremost, my mom and dad. No matter what I did, they still loved me and encouraged me. They also felt there was nothing that I could not accomplish. They provided the ability to get to and from anywhere I needed to go. They enjoyed what I did, and took an interest. They were involved with what I was doing, so I never felt like I was on my own, especially when I was still in high school. They never pushed me too hard. Baseball was my choice, not theirs. Nothing was ever forced on me."

"Every coach that I had along the way influenced me one way or another. I thank them for their sacrifice and knowledge, their time away from family. They all taught me something, though, at the time I probably didn't realize it. It's the sacrifice and effort of all these people that allowed a player like myself that opportunity."

"Later as I became a professional, I would have to say my wife, Susan, was extremely influential in helping me become a better baseball player. I became a little more focused and driven towards my goal to play in the majors. I feel I became much more serious and determined. I felt like it wasn't just about me anymore, but about us."

Gary Ignasiak: "My father and mother always allowed me to play ball if it was available with summer teams. It wasn't a dream to play major league baseball; it just happened. I had no idea about pro ball or how to get there. I was drafted out of high school in 1967, June, and did not even know about it until August 20th of that year. When I finally signed, it was an opportunity to play pro ball, and I took advantage of it. There was no particular person that was my mentor but a combination of quality people that surrounded me young in life: parents, uncles, cousins, friends, etc. And most importantly, being in the right place at the right time, and taking advantage of a unique opportunity."

Gene Rogers: "Mom and dad were instrumental with the growth I encountered while playing the game of baseball. Mom would keep score for the teams I played on, and always ask me if I felt good that day. Dad coached the teams and always made himself available to me. As a player, it was important to me to see my parents at every game. This gave me the confidence I needed to do my best."

"I had two sets of friends while growing up. One set was on the baseball diamond, where we would always compete with each other. The second set was off the field. We were interested in building mini-bikes, which eventually led to automobiles."

"My older brother, Gary, and I would spend a lot of time together playing catch in the street. I recall Gary and I would try to outdo each other with our different selections of curveballs, sliders, knuckleballs and fastballs."

"Lastly, I spent hours throwing the baseball against the brick portion of the garage by myself."

Gary Rogers: "Basically, my father was most instrumental in realizing my dream. As I grew older, coaches in different organizations aided me."

For what school(s), minor league or major league teams did you play? What position(s)?

Mike Ignasiak: "I attended Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep (OLSM), went on to the University of Michigan (UM), signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and finished my career with the Boston Red Sox. At OLSM I played short stop and pitcher. At UM, pitcher. Major leagues, pitcher."

Gary Ignasiak: "St. Mary's high school, Anchor Bay high school, Babe Ruth league, little league, ages 15-16 St. Clair Legion, ages 16-17 A & B Brokers Legion. Pro ball: Sarasota A ball - Lakeland A ball, Rocky Mountain A ball, Batavia A ball, Clinton A ball, Montgomery AA ball, Evansville AAA ball and Detroit Tigers major league. Strictly left handed pitcher."

Gene Rogers: "My experience with the national pastime began at the little league level, 6-12 years of age; the Babe Ruth league, ages 13-15; and the local high school, Clintondale, JV team. Later, Sr. Babe Ruth, a Federation league and varsity level at Clintondale. As I reached the age of 16, my dad and mom wanted me to concentrate on pitching. Now that I am reflecting back on my ability, I can see why. At 16 years of age, my fastball was clocked at 90 mph plus, an off-the-table curve ball which would start at the batters' eyes and end up at their knees and a dazzling slider thrown the same as my fastball to fool the competition. These talents sparked the interest of some college universities and I was offered scholarships to attend Vanderbuilt University and Central Michigan University. I decided to stay close to home to attend Macomb Community College, where my career in baseball ended."

Gary Rogers: "Clintondale little league, Babe Ruth league, Senior Babe Ruth, Clintondale high school and Macomb County Senior Pro league. I pitched, played the outfield and first base."

How did you handle the pressure of excelling at your game?

Mike Ignasiak: "My dad always said no matter what happens today, the sun will come up tomorrow. He taught me that in sports, you can only control one thing. You can't control what happens. You can't control other players, or the weather or playing conditions. In sports, you can only control you. Your attitude, how hard are you going to work, your concentration, your emotions. So ultimately, it all comes down to is how confident are you in you?"

Gary Ignasiak: "It wasn't so much handling pressure as it was either learn to perform at a certain level or you were gone. There were always ten people behind you."

Gene Rogers: "Excelling at my game under pressure was expected of me. What made it easy was the confidence and support of my parents, coaches and teammates. Up until the college level of playing baseball, I could rely on this support. In college, my parents still had confidence in me, but I lost confidence in myself due to the coaching staff changing my style of pitching, which made me ineffective causing depression on my part. I should have listened to my parents, and my heart; to leave that predicament and use my talents at another college."

Gary Rogers: "By focusing and concentrating on the position I would play, and to know the situation that is on the diamond."

What advice would you give to young people who are interested in playing major league baseball?

Mike Ignasiak: "Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Never give up the dream. Work harder than anyone else, and keep your mouth shut because no one likes a smart ass."

Gary Ignasiak: "What advice can you give that can prepare a person for failure 70%-80% of the time as a hitter, and 50% of the time as a pitcher? It's sometimes inside the person that drives them no matter what; to try and be successful no matter how many failures. Learn to mentally handle that and you've accomplished 90% of the battle."

Gene Rogers: "An education is something that nobody can take away from you! Start with this and your dream will fall into place. Listen to your parents, mentors or guardians first. They see the big picture. Lastly, always have heart."

Gary Rogers: "Listen to the coaches that are instructing you. They know more than you. Baseball is a game, not a business."

What mental skills did you use to help you improve your physical skills for the game?

Mike Ignasiak: "You have to believe you are better than everyone else. You have to believe that no matter what, that you're going to succeed. I don't care if you have failed 100 times in a row; you have to believe the next time you will succeed. It's this belief in yourself that carries you to better things."

Gary Ignasiak: "Physical skills were there for every pro ball player or he would not have been signed; some better than others. Those physical skills and your mental make-up gave you the edge. But now we have to take injuries into account. They happen anytime, and it can be over that quickly."

Gene Rogers: "I would prepare myself mentally, before each game, by listening to my favorite music. I'd use this music to get into a zone while I was pitching. My wind-up and delivery to home plate was so unique, the music in my head enhanced the repetition needed in order to be competitive."

Gary Rogers: "Actually, your mental and physical skills have to coincide with each other. Think, then react. You have to know every situation possible at that moment in time."

What obstacles did you need to overcome so that you could play your game? How did you overcome them?

Mike Ignasiak: "Thanks to my mom and dad, I really didn't have any obstacles to overcome. I guess, really, the only thing I can think of is, do you believe in yourself enough? Sometimes emotionally you let it get to you if, when you look around and see all the great players and you ask yourself if I'm good enough to play this game at the highest level with these guys? I always thought, I wouldn't be here if someone didn't believe I could compete at this level."

Gary Ignasiak: "Obstacles were there daily. New players, injuries, slumps; you just had to keep moving forward to the best of your ability. Some just were better at it."

Gene Rogers: "During my high school years I was sidelined with injuries due to automobile accidents. These accidents forced me to miss half of the high school baseball season. This did not discourage me. A minor set back to set my goal for a stronger comeback was my plan. A desire to play the game to the best of my ability was the plan. It worked during my high school years, but was crushed during my college years."

Gary Rogers: "Peer pressure. By putting baseball first and having dedication to the game, I overcame it."

What are your most memorable events during the course of playing baseball, either as an amateur or as a professional?

Mike Ignasiak: "In high school, it was getting the chance to play at old Tiger Stadium for the Catholic league championship, which we won. In college, it was my first game as a freshman. I was petrified! My hands and legs were shaking. I can't remember anything that happened during the game, but when it was all over, I had thrown a complete game, 2 hit shut out. So much for being nervous. In the Major Leagues, it was also my first game. It was against the World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays, and the batter was John Olerued. I was nervous then also, and somehow threw a strike on the outside corner. I remember after throwing that first pitch for a strike, thinking to myself that I finally made it to the big leagues!"

Gary Ignasiak: "Naturally, being signed was personally my biggest thrill! I was naive back then to think that something like that could happen to me. Along with being signed, everything after that was memorable. All the players, coaches, managers, front office people, new cities, big league ball players, being actually called up to play in the big leagues and then playing with all your boyhood heroes. What a thrill!"

Gene Rogers: "Winning back-to-back State Championships in 1975 & 1976 with a group of teammates, whom I will never forget."

Gary Rogers: "My 15 minutes of fame happened when I was 18 years old. I was pitching in a Senior Babe Ruth State Championship, when I pulled myself out of the game at the top of the 6th inning after becoming tired. As I was leaving the mound, I received the longest and loudest standing ovation ever, which gave me a feeling I'll never forget. Another highlite: I'm enshrined in the 1974 edition of Athletes Of The Year, hard cover book, which is found at the Baseball Hall Of Fame in Cooperstown, New York."

How can major league baseball improve so that it can attract more fans to the game?

Mike Ignasiak: "First, it needs to speed up the game. Batters take too long to get into the batter's box. It seems that after every pitch, the batter takes his sweet old time getting back in the box. MLB should make it a rule that once you're in the batter's box, at least one foot has to remain in the box until the at-bat is over. Pitchers take too long between pitches. They should return to the rubber as soon as they get the ball back from the catcher, and start receiving the sign from the catcher. Umpires need to expand the strike zone, and MLB should get rid of the designated hitter."

"Somehow, the Major League owners need to visit some of the more successful minor league ball parks, and see what they are doing. The minor leagues are much more fan friendly than the Major Leagues."

Gary Ignasiak: "You're asking the wrong person. I'm old school. I played the game for the pleasure. I loved playing baseball, and still do."

Gene Rogers: "Whether you are a player or a fan, the game and the participants of baseball are constantly changing. Some good, some not so good. A person just needs to work with what is available at the time to reap the benefits of the sport."

Gary Rogers: "Lower player salaries, which in turn would lower ticket prices, which would attract more fans."

Please discuss any other questions or comments you would like to add for this article.

Gary Ignasiak: "Nothing else to add."

Gary Rogers: "When I played baseball, I played because of the enthusiasm and dedication to the game of baseball. I hope maybe some day, it'll be viewed that way once again."

Some concluding remarks:

As children and young adults, all four gentlemen had supportive parents, who supported their decision to play ball.

Each of them enjoyed playing the game as a child.

All four became pitchers.

All four have natural athletic talent.

All four have a love for the game. Each viewed playing baseball as fun!

Each had influential coaches, either for the good or bad.

Each had a belief in themself that fostered self-confidence.

Failing forward was a value that moved each of them through obstacles to grow as a person.

Keeping a positive attitude helped each become successful with their skills.

Sacrifices were made as one way to develop a work ethic.

Baseball and life:

* Life can be difficult at times, and other times it can be fun.

* We all need support to get through it.

* Parents and other adults play a big role when we are young.

* If we are lucky, a sibling is available for support.

* As adults, we've all had bosses (coaches) who can be unreasonable, and we've had bosses who can be encouraging and fair.

* A belief in oneself can get us through most obstacles and barriers to what we want to achieve in life.

* There is always the opportunity to find out what we're good at, and then to go after it.

* Focus and concentration keep us alert and aware of what we need to do to accomplish our goals.

* There is a sequence of events, or action steps, that we take when we set goals.

* Realizing a goal is something that we earn.

* Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed.

* A positive attitude won't get us everything we want, but it will get us anything better than a negative attitude.

* And sometimes in our quest to get what we want, we need to make sacrifices.

I see a lot of similarities!

Written by,
Mark S. Rogers, LPC.
Licensed Professional Counselor and
Nationally Certified Sports Counselor, Diplomate

Gene and Gary supporting Stooltime Counseling! Thanks.

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