Northwoods League MVP Is Now A Dodger

The Dodgers diligently scout the many summer collegiate leagues, something that has paid off particularly well for the past two years. Now they hope to gain similar results in 2005. Late in 2003, they nailed down Andy LaRoche after his breakout year in the Cape Cod League. Last August, they inked Chris Malone after he starred in the Alaskan League. This year's signing is outfielder Ryan Rogowski, the Most Valuable Player in the Northwoods League.

LaRoche had been a 39th round draft choice seemingly headed from the junior college ranks to Rice University but his performance in the Cape Cod loop netted him a $ 1 million contract to change his mind. Malone, a righthander, hadn't been drafted out of junior college but was such a standout that several teams were bidding for his services with the Dodgers winning the race. Rogowski is a similar case, overlooked in the draft with a strong summer perking interest.

In high school in the Detroit suburb of Livonia, Mich, Rogowski was all-state in three sports- football, where he was a linebacker and running, back; wrestling, where he was a state champion in his weight class and baseball. He had offers from colleges in all three, ultimately choosing baseball. "I considered football," he says. "Not wrestling which is just hard work. I finally decided I had the best chance to make a career in baseball so I accepted a scholarship to the University of Michigan."

That wasn't work out though after Michigan changed coaches and the new man and Ryan failed to get together. Instead, he went to John. A. Logan Junior College near Chicago where he bashed the ball at such a rate that he was offered a scholarship to the University of Illinois.

He had two strong seasons with the Illini, particularly this past spring when he hit .374 to lead the team, stealing 31 of 36 bases. That gained him All-Big Ten honors but not a call from big league clubs on draft day.

"I was in shock," he admits. "Several teams had talked to me and indicated they would select me." Instead, he wound up joining the Madison team in the Northwoods League for a second season.

It turned out to be quite a year. A rightfielder, he hit .345 with four home runs, leading the league in hits (86), runs (52), triples (5) and setting a record by stealing 44 bases. All this gained him the MVP nod as well as making second team honors on the All-Summer squad as selected for Baseball America.

This time pro teams were bidding for his services with the Dodgers getting a commitment even before the season ended.

"I was looking for an opportunity because I really want to play pro ball. I could have gone back to Illinois for my senior year but I figured it was my turn."

Now, he's playing in the Instructional League and, "Loving it. It's nice to be able to concentrate on the game and not have to worry about classes. It's my job. This is a good squad and the coaches have treated me with respect."

A major in kinieseology, he's planning on returning to school some day to finish his degree. In the meantime, he's giving the Dodgers an outfielder who hits for average, runs extremely well and has occasional pop.

And, hopefully, a third straight gem plucked from the summer league ranks.