Sports

Tumwater’s Stephen Vogt, Oakland A’s first-year full-time catcher, possible first-time All-Star?

The only statistics Stephen Vogt is paying attention to are from teams in the opposing clubhouse on game days.

But national media are noticing what Vogt, in his first season as the starting catcher for the Oakland Athletics, is doing. There’s talk of the Tumwater resident being named to his first All-Star team and possibly being in the conversation for American League MVP.

Vogt’s focus, however, is elsewhere.

“I’ve played my best when my back’s against the wall,” he said. “I feel like, for me, as long as I stay hungry, that’s where I’m going to succeed.”

Vogt ranks in the top 10 in the American League in batting average (.340, tied for fourth), RBIs (26, second), on-base percentage (.427, second) and slugging percentage (.660, second) and leads all major league catchers in those categories as well as home runs (eight).

A hot start through six weeks of the season is flattering for Vogt, who a year ago waited a month for another call-up, which led to his first extended role in the majors at age 29.

For the first time in his professional career, the now-30-year-old Vogt said he feels he belongs in the major leagues and knows he can be an everyday catcher.

“Having that confidence going through my head every day — that’s what you need,” Vogt said. “… It’s a belief in yourself that I’ve put in time, and effort, to get to this point.

“It’s nice to see what I believe is happening.”

While the A’s were swept in Seattle to drop to 12-21, Vogt had his best game of the three-game series Sunday, singling twice and crushing a Fernando Rodney offering to right field for his eighth home run of the season in the ninth inning of the 4-3 loss.

What a difference a year makes for Vogt: In May 2014, he was playing for Triple-A Sacramento, a victim of one too many catchers for the A’s even though he had a solid spring training and was months removed from being a postseason hero with a walk-off RBI single in Game 2 of the 2013 American League Division Series against Detroit.

A’s manager Bob Melvin said not naming Vogt to the 2014 opening-day roster was one of his toughest managerial decisions. After that June 1 call-up, however, Vogt hit .279 with nine homers in 84 games as a utility player at catcher, first base and outfield, despite a late-season foot injury.

With the offseason departures of platoon catchers John Jaso (Tampa Bay) and Derek Norris (San Diego), Vogt was named the starting catcher for the A’s.

And the early returns on Vogt have been strong.

“What he’s done up this point in time behind the plate is significant as any catcher in the league,” Melvin said. “… He’s taken advantage of a great opportunity and he’s running with it as well as you would expect.”

Vogt, who is married to Tumwater High girls basketball coach Alyssa (Ferdaszewski), a 2003 Capital High graduate, credits his consistency at the plate to shifting to an everyday catcher for the first time — “the last thing on my mind is hitting,” he said — but the offensive production also came from a rather unusual source: a lack of offseason swings.

Surgery in October to repair plantar plates and remove scar tissue on his right foot hampered his traditional winter hitting schedule at the Sandberg Baseball Club’s facility at On Deck Performance in Tumwater, where he also doubles as the club’s catching coordinator.

A typical winter in Tumwater, Vogt said, is hitting a minimum two to three times per week in late December, increasing to five to six times per week before leaving for spring training. When he left for spring training on Feb. 3, Vogt said he hit only eight times.

“It was a really weird winter for me — it was a big change in my routine,” he said.

Vogt jokingly added, “Maybe I don’t need to hit (in the offseason).”

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473

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