Sports

Rodgers wants H-F baseball to be ‘dogs ready to bite’

Junior DeMir Heidelberg is one of the few returning players for an H-F baseball team under new coach Marcus Rodgers. (David P. Funk/H-F Chronicle)

Marcus Rodgers knows what sort of personality he wants his program to have as he begins his first year at the helm of Homewood-Flossmoor baseball. 

“What type of dog are you? Are you a lapdog that wants to be petted all day? Or are you a dog ready to bite? We want dogs ready to bite,” Rodgers said.  “We want to play super aggressive, super fast, because I can reel you in if you’re going too fast. I can reel you in if you’re doing too much in the dugout. But if you’re just laying there waiting on something to happen, it’s hard for me to get you fired up. We want some dogs ready to attack.” 

Rodgers, who was hired last August, has the clay to mold. This H-F group is nearly as new as he is. The varsity roster is almost entirely turned over from what it was a year ago. Rodgers said he likes what he has though. He thinks his team has some speed, some power and a few arms who are ready to compete. 

“We’re cool with it,” he said. “We’ve got some good young guys, some good young talent. We have some great senior leadership. I think we’re well-balanced.” 

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The Vikings started the season in a good way with a comeback 9-8 win over visiting Kenwood Academy March 13. It was obvious to anyone in attendance that they enjoyed themselves doing it. The dugout chirps were loud and frequent, and H-F was quick to celebrate important moments. 

“Right before the game, I just told the guys ‘Let’s just have fun. Let’s just play 100%,’” junior DeMir Heidelberg said. 

Heidelberg had one of the key hits in a five-run sixth inning that was the difference. He came to the plate with two outs, the bases loaded and the Vikings trailing 6-4. 

Heidelberg said he was sitting on Khamaree Thomas’s fastball. He poked it through the infield to drive in two runs to tie the game. 

“I knew it was my moment. I knew I was going to get a hit,” he said. “I visualized it, right through the gap. I was just trying to play and have fun.” 

Cameron Williams then doubled in two more and scored on a bases-loaded walk. 

That walk wasn’t a fluke. The Vikings were patient all night.  H-F worked deep into counts in almost every at bat, seeing 11 go full. Some of those came after starting 1-2 or even 0-2. They drew seven bases on balls, including five in that decisive sixth inning. 

“That’s all we’ve talked about, being a tough out,” Rodgers said. “Our biggest thing is having quality at bats and that’s all we’ve really talked about hitting-wise. Go in there ready to go, fight and see what happens.” 

Arthur Stamps and Torii Chaney both homered, and Kendall Ellis, who was 3 for3 with a walk, scored on a wild pitch. 

One thing about that first game that caught Rodgers off guard, he said, was the attendance. Fans, including several local youth teams in uniform, filled the bleachers and stood down both baselines all the way to the bullpens. 

“I turned around and there was 500 people here. It’s crazy, man,” Rodgers said. “It’s almost like playoff vibes. If we can get families out here like this, that’s going to help us a lot. These kids, if they know they have that support, they’re going to go harder for it.” 

That type of thing can only help a squad hoping to gel as the season progresses. 

“I knew pretty much every guy on this team. I played freshman ball with them or most of the guys I grew up with. The new guys, we welcomed them in, had some team bonding. We worked our lumps over,” Heidelberg said. “I feel like coach Marcus will be good for us.” 

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