It seems rare that professional baseball players with Valley ties return to Fresno and perform well.
But then there is Stephen Vogt, the former Central Valley Christian High star, who again Saturday bucked that trend in a big way.
Vogt hit a three-run homer, rounding the bases while family and friends stood and cheered, as the Sacramento River Cats beat the Fresno Grizzlies 12-3 in a Pacific Coast League game at Chukchansi Park.
He went 2 for 4, also doubling and scoring three runs as part of the River Cats' 14-hit attack. The Pacific Northern Division leaders scored in six of the nine innings.
"I just think it's fun for me to play in front of my family," said Vogt, a 12th-round draft pick by Tampa Bay out of Azusa Pacific in 2007. "It's rare that they've gotten to see me play professionally, especially since I started my career on the East Coast.
"It's just nice to come home. You obviously want to play well in front of the people who've supported you. I just try to stay relaxed."
The list of ballplayers with local ties who've struggled at The Chuk includes Las Vegas' Danny Muno (Fresno State) this year and Chris Schwinden (Fresno Pacific/Golden West) when he was with Las Vegas last year.
Vogt, however, is an old hand at this reunion deal. This is his second season with the River Cats. And a year ago, he went 2 for 5 in his first game at the downtown Fresno ballpark.
Sacramento's offense did have some help Saturday.
Chris Heston has been the Grizzlies' most consistent starter but had his worst outing of the year. He allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks, pulled in the second after six straight batters reached. A couple of Fresno errors didn't help.
The River Cats finished with three homers, with Michael Taylor and Daric Barton also going deep.
Vogt remained hot, with at least one hit in 12 of his past 13 games. He's hitting .364 with three homers and 19 RBIs in 21 games. The 29-year old missed about a month with a pulled oblique suffered roughly a week into the season.
"Not only has he been successful at the plate, but he's been a huge leader on the field and really helps getting our pitchers on track," River Cats manager Steve Scarsone said. "He's been a huge part of our club."
Vogt spent parts of the past two seasons in the majors, even getting the winning hit for Oakland in Game 2 of the AL Division Series against Detroit.
He was in contention for a big league roster spot this spring but was beaten out at catcher by the strong tandem of John Jaso and Derek Norris. The A's (34-22) have the best record in the American League.
"The A's are the best, so that's a tough team to crack and get up there," Vogt said. "But I know my opportunity will come, and I'll be ready when it does."
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