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  • 21 Sep 2014

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Broncos end long, losing baseball ride

New coach Fogle, Parkrose embark on improvement process


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Parkrose Highs Max Denning pumps up his teammates in a home game last week.Parkrose baseball is on the rise.

To be clear, the program had no direction to go but up after an 0-24 season last spring.

But first-year head coach Nate Fogle is pulling out all stops to ensure that the Broncos are laughingstocks no more.

“Nate has brought stability to a program that has been in flux for quite awhile,” designated hitter Max Denning says.

When the Broncos beat Glencoe 3-2 at home on March 20, it snapped a state-long 29-game losing streak over three seasons.

The post-game celebration “was pretty crazy,” pitcher/shortstop Tyler Sirokman says. “It was a moment of great satisfaction that lasted for days.”

Parkrose has lost its last four games to fall to 1-5, including a 20-5 dismantling by David Douglas last Thursday. “But we’re going to pull out some more wins,” pitcher/outfielder Trevor Pickron says. “We’ll try to get some upsets, and see what goes on from there.”

The three Parkrose seniors are playing for their third head coach in four years. Fogle brings with him a nifty portfolio. The Centennial High grad was 4-2 with a 3.05 ERA and a .205 opponents’ batting average in 26 appearances as a reliever with the 2005 Oregon State team that won the Pac-10 championship and became the first OSU team to reach the College World Series in 52 years.

An 11th-round draft pick by Texas in 2005, Fogle pitched three seasons of Class A ball from ‘05 to ‘07. He has worked for five years as marketing manager at Valley Athletic in Northeast Portland, an athletic equipment company owned by his brother, Eric.

As a volunteer assistant coach last season, Fogle suffered with the players through the only winless season at any classification in the state. After the season, athletic director Dave Richardson hired him as head coach.

“The first thing I told Dave is that programs aren’t built overnight,” says Fogle, 30. “It’s going to take some time.”

Fogle is the biggest bargain in high school sports in the state. After coaching for nothing as an assistant last season, he is basically working for free again this year to build a program that has been down for many years.

“I’m dumping all my salary back into the program,” he says. “I don’t like how some programs are set up to succeed and others are set up for failure. It doesn’t matter the quality of player if there is a lack of coaching and funding. When that happens, the players aren’t getting a fair shot to be successful. I want to give these kids a chance.

“When I was in high school, I played for RBI (Return Baseball to the Inner Cities). That was important to me. This is a city school. I work nearby. I want this to be a program where people say, ‘They’re doing right over there.’ ”

Fogle bought a $300 mower to help maintain the field. Through Valley Athletic, he purchased hoody sweatshirts for the players.

“When you project yourself out to the community, there are only a couple of ways to do that,” he says. “One is by your look, what you wear, having pride and how you feel. That’s what we’re trying to establish. The other way is with results on the field.”

Fogle has had to work on his players’ mentality.

“By the end of last season, the team’s mindset was, ‘We’re just out here to play rather than pull out a victory,’ ” Sirokman says. “This year is different. The expectations have been set for us by the coaching staff. We want to compete with teams like Sherwood, the top dogs of our league.”

“Before, there was a lot of accepting that this was the best we can do,” says Denning, the student body president and editor of the school newspaper, the Bronco Blaze. “There wasn’t a winning mentality. There was not a team atmosphere. That’s something we’ve tried to change. We’ve implemented things like bonding nights. We do little things that help us to become like a team.”

“When we were losing, it was demoralizing,” Pickron says. “You could see it at practice. Nobody really cared. But now it’s getting a lot better, especially since the game we won. Our losing streak is over.”

“That win was a big deal for us,” Fogle says. “You get so used to losing, it becomes a mindset. When you win, it feels good.

“We’re trying to win, but it’s a process. For now, it’s be competitive, be in the game. Maybe we pick up a few wins along the way. But when people talk about Parkrose baseball, I want it to be that it’s not a bad thing. I want (opponents) to see us as a team that’s well-coached and looks the part.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Michael Simkovic makes the throw to first base for the Parkrose Broncos.Facilities are a major problem. The Broncos have been playing on what must be one of the worst home fields in the Portland area, one that has been used by Parkrose for nearly 50 years.

When the weather is wet, as it has often been in recent weeks, the infield dirt is soggy and the outfield grass boggy. The season opener against Cleveland was delayed 30 minutes while seven loads of sand were dumped on the infield. High flyballs to the outfield can plug; when it occurs, it’s a ground-rule double. Much of the right field grass is so wet, it can’t be cut.

“Somebody could get hurt chasing a flyball,” Pickron says. “It slows down outfielders, for sure.”

Fogle points out numerous other problems: A large tree that stands 6 inches from the left-field line and outfield fence, a chain-link fence with jagged edges. An exposed concrete French drain 3 feet from the left-field line. Metal light poles in left-center and right-center with no protective padding. A sloped field from home plate to right field.

“You talk about player safety ... all of these things are dangerous,” he says.

A decrepit batting cage “is about five years from falling down,” Fogle says. Only one port is usable.

“We have nowhere to hit,” he says. “We go in the gym for an hour and 20 minutes three days a week, but we need a better place.”

Richardson is sympathetic.

“Dave has been supportive,” Fogle says. “Whenever I go to Dave with an idea, he has said, ‘Let’s look into it.’ Same with everybody in the athletic department. There are just a lot of problems at once. Without funding, there’s no way we can fix it.”

“When I took over, the field had been in poor shape for years,” says Richardson, in his second year as athletic director. “When we started last year, we figured would take three or four years to get it into good shape. With as wet a spring as we’ve had, it’s difficult. We don’t have $100,000 to put into it and make it great right away, but it will be a wonderful field in a couple of years.”

Fogle is working at fundraising. The Broncos have sold oranges and banners for the field. They’ve had a bottle/can drive, will do a barbecue and golf tournament in the summer. He is soliciting donations (call 702-335-8033, ext. 102, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

“We’re not going to waste money,” he says. “If we get a donation, it’s going right to helping the kids. At some places, you fundraise and some of the money goes right into the coach’s pocket. That’s not going to happen here.”

Fogle is seeing results. In 2013, Parkrose had 23 players. This year, the program has 36. Fogle will coach a summer team — there was only a recreational team last summer — and work to develop a youth feeder program in the area.

Head football coach Mo France is the program’s only paid varsity assistant. Fogle’s brother Eric and Brian Lambert are working as volunteers.

Sirokman and several players lobbied Richardson for Fogle to get the job after last season.

“Coach Nate and his staff have made a big difference,” Sirokman says. “The overall intensity has progressively grown since he’s been here. He pretty much ran the practices last year, and on days he didn’t, you could tell the difference.”

“He’s younger than the past few coaches we’ve had, and he’s more attached to the game,” Denning says. “We added an offseason weight program. We got all-new uniforms. We’re part of the process. The communication has been great. We didn’t have this much input the previous three years.

“He has brought in a different mindset and work ethic. We’ve built team unity. He’s had an impact. He takes the game seriously. That’s a product of him playing in college and the pros and understanding how the game works and making sure we have what we need to be successful.”

Richardson has noticed.

“There’s a significant difference in the culture this year from last,” the Parkrose AD says. “Nate’s been able to connect with the kids a little better. Kids are working hard. There’s a different feel at practice, a different attitude. This year, it doesn’t matter what the score is, they’re playing to the last ball.”

How much credit does Fogle deserve for that?

“About 100 percent,” Richardson says. “When he took the job, he hit the ground running with fundraising, with offseason workouts, with weightlifting. He had the boys fired up in December. He has added a cohesiveness I haven’t seen in baseball in my short tenure here.”

Fogle wants to fundraise so the Broncos can take a spring trip next year, as many of the area’s prep programs do.

“A trip like that is so important,” he says. “It’s one of my favorite memories from my high school experience.”

Fogle is buoyed by the response of those in and around the program.

“The kids want to play,” he says. “They want to win. The parents have responded, too. They want this to be a better program, and they’re willing to put the work in.

“The administration has been behind me trying to do the right things. Once we get dialed in after this year, that’s when you’re going to start seeing Parkrose baseball really improving.”

Sirokman says it is coming.

“We’re acting like a real program does now,” he says. “Like the good programs do.”

The victory over Glencoe, Denning says, “was a long time coming. It was a product of an entire offseason of work. It was nice to have a marker for everything we’ve done. But we aren’t satisfied. We didn’t come into this year to just win a game.”