GOODBYE TO ROG
Twins reliever Tyler Duffey was with his wife, Sarah, and his in-laws at dinner when the texts started hitting his phone. That’s the first sign he got that the future of his best friend, Taylor Rogers, hung in the balance, as reports quickly emerged on Twitter that Rogers was potentially involved in a trade quickly taking shape between the Twins and Padres.
“So, what have you got?” Duffey texted Rogers.
“All I know is what I’ve seen on Twitter,” Rogers texted back.
Duffey and Rogers had been all but inseparable since they were both selected by the Twins in the 2012 MLB Draft — Duffey, in the fifth round out of Rice University, and Rogers, in the 11th round from the University of Kentucky. Duffey always tried to sit with Rogers for those long bus rides in the Minor Leagues because Rogers, skinny as he is, fit neatly into the inside seat, giving Duffey room for a more comfortable ride.
They lived together in New Britain, then home of the Twins’ Double-A affiliate, where they didn’t have cable, used their neighbors’ Wi-Fi connection and watched music videos on television for entertainment. (One night, they stared out the window together with some beers as a car was repossessed.)
“It’s just stuff like that,” Duffey said. “Over the course of time, the little stuff that adds up. Like I said, he’s my best friend. Favorite teammate. Whatever you want to call it.”
Duffey got the call to the bigs in ‘15; Rogers in ‘16. They lockered next to each other at Hammond Stadium this spring and had started to set up neighboring lockers in the corner of the Target Field home clubhouse, ready for their seventh season as big leaguers at each other’s side.
All of a sudden, that turned upside down when news of the trade talks broke. Duffey invited Rogers over that night after the left-hander had been haggling with an apartment complex, trying to negotiate a lease. They sat together until 1 a.m., waiting for the inevitable to come to pass (it didn’t until early the next morning).
Rogers didn’t just want to sit in limbo by himself, Duffey said. After all those small, idle moments together that had accumulated over a decade, they got to spend one last night together as teammates. Talking. Hanging out. Wondering what the future would hold. Almost like they were Minor Leaguers in New Britain again.
“That was tough for him, just because you’re literally up in the air,” Duffey said. “It’s like, how are you supposed to go to sleep? He’s like, ‘All right, well, I’m just waiting on a phone call that I’m going to be leaving.’ … It’s just the world we live in. That’s some of the ugly part of it that people don’t get to see all the time.”
It’s part of the business, and Duffey’s used to having to move on. They’re going to see each other again when the Twins go to Petco Park in July. Every day is another “normal day” again, Duffey says. But it’s a tough ecosystem in this way that we don’t often think about — a blip on the transaction radar, a tweet, an article to fans can mean a transformation of a decade-long friendship for the players involved. Duffey can attest to that.
“The baseball world gets smaller and smaller the longer you’re in it,” Duffey said. “Unfortunately, we get to experience problems like this. That means you’ve been around. That means you’ve stuck around long enough to have good friends and see them go and have success elsewhere.”