A postseason run he won’t soon forget

Tumwater’s Stephen Vogt back home after catching for Athletics vs. Tigers

mwochnick@theolympian.comOctober 22, 2013 

About three innings is all the postseason baseball that Tumwater resident Stephen Vogt has watched since the Oakland Athletics’ season ended with a loss in the American League Division Series.

“I’ve watched enough baseball this year,” said Vogt, who caught all but two postseason innings for the A’s in their series with the Detroit Tigers.

“It’s tough to watch it when you could and should be playing in it.”

Vogt, 28, went to high school and college in California. His wife, Alyssa, is a 2003 Capital High graduate, and the couple make their home in South Sound. The Vogts and their 2-year-old daughter, Payton, returned to Tumwater last week after Vogt’s memorable postseason.

Baseball fans across the country knew more about Vogt after he became the hero in Game 2. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning of a scoreless game, Vogt ripped a pitch off reliever Rick Porcello to left-center field for the RBI single that tied the series at one game apiece.

It was a night Vogt, who also had a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double-play to end the Tigers’ fifth inning, won’t forget. During postgame on-field media interviews, he got a shaving cream pie to the face, quickly followed by a Gatorade bath. “A good feeling,” he called it.

But in the wake of his greatest baseball moment — and almost six months after being designated for assignment by the Tampa Bay Rays — Vogt was quick to remind people the real hero in Game 2 was A’s rookie pitcher Sonny Gray.

With Vogt catching, the 23-year-old Gray matched Tigers starter and 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander frame for scoreless frame. Vogt had also caught Gray at Triple-A Sacramento before the pair earned promotions to the majors.

“He kept his composure against the best pitcher in baseball,” Vogt said. “To see him execute pitches like that was a lot of fun. … He’s the real deal. He’s 23 going on 35. He’s very mature for his age, and he has electric stuff. (It’s) exciting for A’s fans to watch him and all of baseball fans to watch him.”

Vogt had his own battles with Verlander. In the seventh, he had a 10-pitch at-bat that ended with a strikeout.

But the cinematic moment came in the ninth. He simply was looking for a pitch over the plate, and got it. Seconds later, Vogt was mobbed by teammates.

“You couldn’t have written it up any better,” said Alyssa Vogt (formerly Ferdazerski).

The postseason experience was far different than what the Vogts experienced last Easter Sunday. They were on their way to Durham, N.C., from the Rays’ spring-training complex in St. Petersburg, Fla., with Vogt presuming he was going to the Durham Bulls, the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate. Instead, he was designated for assignment, meaning the organization had 10 days to return the player to the 40-man roster or trade, release or outright the player to the minors.

The Vogts were suddenly in limbo, but Alyssa Vogt said their faith got them through that tough time.

“It’s something we’ve done the six years that we’ve been married and the seven (baseball) seasons we’ve gone through,” she said. “He continues to work and work, and it’s just another obstacle. It shows the kind of character he is.”

Oakland purchased Vogt’s contract for $150,000, and he was assigned to Triple A. He was called up when catchers John Jaso and Derek Norris were injured.

He hit .252 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 47 regular-season games for the A’s, and started all five of the Division Series games behind the plate — a series that ended Oct. 10 in a 3-0 loss to the Tigers and Verlander, who struck out 10.

Still, Vogt can point to many memorable moments over the season, such as his first big league hit — a solo home run — June 28 to snap an 0-for-32 slump. But the postseason ride was pretty special, too.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “To play in the postseason and to be part of a postseason team. We fell short of what we wanted to do, but it was an honor and a privilege for me to do that.”

VOGT’S BIG Season

Oakland A’s catcher Stephen Vogt, who makes his offseason home in Tumwater, had a big year in 2013. Some highlights:

 • First major league hit – bases-empty home run – vs. St. Louis on June 28.

 • Earned part of the starting job as the left-handed hitter in the A’s catcher platoon, batting .328 in August over 56 at-bats.

 • Finished regular season with a .252 average with four home runs and 16 RBI in 135 at-bats.

 • Started all five of Oakland’s ALDS games vs. Detroit, driving in the winning run in the A’s 1-0 win in Game 2.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 mwochnick@theolympian.com theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick

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