Tumwater’s Stephen Vogt finds consistent role with A’s – as an everyday utility player

July 13, 2014 

Rangers Athletics Baseball

Stephen Vogt, who lives in Tumwater during the offseason, has had an offensive impact on the Oakland Athletics this season. Through 32 games, he was hitting .376, tops in the league among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances.

BEN MARGOT — The Associated Press

— A California boy at heart, Stephen Vogt is coming around to Washington.

The Oakland Athletics utility player, his wife, Alyssa, and their 2-year-old daughter, Payton, call Tumwater home during the offseason. Vogt will be staked out at high school gymnasiums around South Sound this winter as his wife begins her first season coaching girls basketball at Tumwater High School.

So it’s only natural, too, that visits to Safeco Field with the A’s are becoming comfortable for him.

“It’s feeling like home more and more every year,” Vogt, 29, said Friday from the visitors’ clubhouse.

The first half of the Major League Baseball season wraps up Sunday. Vogt’s .371 average through 33 games is tops in the league among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances. Since his June 1 call-up from Triple-A Sacramento, he has found a home in the A’s lineup, earning starts at first base, left field, right field and catcher, as well as designated hitter.

Vogt was one of the bright spots in the A’s 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Friday night with two hits off Felix Hernandez, including a solo home run in the first inning, Vogt’s fourth of the season.

And he entered Saturday with the third-longest current hitting streak and extended it to a career-high 12 games with a single.

On a team that leads the majors in wins approaching the All-Star break, A’s manager Bob Melvin calls Vogt a key contributor, and even he continues to be amazed by the player’s production.

“It’s been incredible,” Melvin said.

But it didn’t start out that way.

Vogt didn’t make the A’s opening-day roster. Even after starting 40 games last year at catcher and hitting the winning RBI single in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, Vogt spent April and May in Sacramento. Then came a stint on the disabled list because of a strained abdominal muscle.

The power didn’t suffer, however, upon his return. He hit .364 with the River Cats, leading to another call-up in early June, when Josh Reddick (knee) was sent to the DL.

Now, Vogt isn’t looking over his shoulder and feeling the pressures of trying to prove his worth. Friday was his fifth multihit game in the past six games. He has 39 hits this season.

“Now, I can relax and play baseball,” he said.

Vogt wasn’t tagged with a prospect label in high school in Visalia, California, or at Azusa Pacific University. He was a 12th-round draft pick by Tampa Bay in 2007 — the year the Rays made David Price the top overall selection — but Vogt’s consistency led to promotions and big league call-ups seven times since 2012, primarily at catcher.

The journeyman who proved himself in the minor leagues is making a big impression now. He’s a clubhouse and fan favorite in Oakland. When playing in the outfield, he mingles with fans at O.co Coliseum. He cracks a smile when he talks about the now-famous fan chants of “I believe in Stephen Vogt,” and the signage and Internet message boards that read, “Vote Vogt for president in 2016.”

Melvin’s values Vogt’s humor (he does a near-perfect Chris Farley impression), leadership and versatility. After starting in right field Friday, he made his sixth start at first base Saturday. Melvin and his staff are confident Vogt will get the job done regardless of where he plays.

“We believe in Stephen Vogt,” Melvin said. “He’s been terrific for us. He’s been instrumental to the success the team has had recently.”

Vogt doesn’t know where he’ll be placed defensively every day, with one exception — the middle infield. “I need to stay out of the middle infield; it’s not what my body is designed to do,” he joked. Yet, Vogt doesn’t let defensive uncertainty affect his offense.

And he’s enjoying a comfort level he hadn’t experienced until now.

“This team allows you to succeed,” Vogt said. “Everyone in this room is succeeding, and that makes it a lot easier.”

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

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