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Soft Money

Rogers Family Has Invested Savings Into Training Center for Softball Players

August 16, 2000|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As their only daughter Rhianna was completing her senior year in 1998 at Rio Mesa High and preparing to attend college on a softball scholarship, Tony and Cindy Rogers were making plans.

They intended to see how the other half lives.

No more cross-country summer trips to hot and humid destinations to watch Rhianna play week after week after week. After 13 years of softball summers, the Rogerses thought they were ready for something else.

"We had originally told ourselves, goodbye, good riddance [to softball]," Tony Rogers said. "Instead of having summer vacations in places like Stillwater, Okla., and what not, we're going to go find some really nice places to go."

And. . . .

"That lasted all of about a month and a half," he quipped.

Within weeks of his newfound freedom, Tony found himself doing what he loves most, coaching a travel softball team.

"I can work with 15 or 20 girls at a time or I could work with hundreds," he said. "And that's what motivated me."

A marketing manager for an aerospace company in Oxnard, Rogers is selling softball six days a week in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse.

Three weeks ago, the Rogerses unveiled their two-year labor of love: The Millennium Softball Training Center in Oxnard.

It is not a typical batting cage with a fancy name.

Geared toward youth and high school players, it is unique for several reasons.

For starters, it's indoors and the seven pitching and hitting cages are on six inches of dirt.

And the most important thing: it's only for fastpitch softball players. Slo-pitch softball and baseball players will be out of their element.

"Having seen other facilities, we recognized and realized that many times the softball player is the afterthought of the baseball batting cage," Tony Rogers said.

There are four batting cages, each 45-feet long and 15-feet wide; two pitching cages, 51-feet long and 15-feet wide; and a smaller warmup cage. All three pitching cages have sunken and anchored pitching rubbers.

Individual instruction includes an evaluation and videotaping. Instructors include Tony and Rhianna Rogers--until the junior third baseman returns to Florida Atlantic University--and Jenifer Henry, a former Buena standout who played at Fresno State from 1992-96 and for the Silver Bullets in 1997.

The most unusual aspect of the training center has nothing to do with bats and balls.

There is a resource center where girls can get information about everything from college entrance exams to signing letters of intent.

"There's a lot out there for boys," Cindy Rogers said. "There's very little out there for females.

"Softball is such a big game. We want to help get more females to college. That's our intent."

After sinking a large chunk of the family savings into the training center, the Rogerses don't intend to stop.

"We did the demographics," Tony Rogers said. "In the Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard areas alone, there are over 6,000 fastpitch softball players from the park and recreation level up to high school."

Said Cindy Rogers: "We'd like to just get a small portion of those."

Tony and Cindy Rogers hope to open several more facilities in the Ventura area and eventually franchise the operation nationwide.

Participation in fastpitch softball has grown nationwide by 73% at the high school level and 41% at the college level since 1990.

"I don't believe there is any chance of this failing," Tony Rogers said. "This was destined to happen. It has happened in spite of us."

The Millennium Softball Training Center is located at 701 Del Norte Blvd., Unit 200, in Oxnard. Grand opening is Aug. 25-26. Visit the Web site at www.m-softball.com.

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