Rohleder played in the Marlins organizationJune 9, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
Andy Rohleder stepped onto the varsity scene as a sophomore at Forest Park in 1996 with mostly junior varsity experience under his belt. Opposing teams who weren’t familiar with him before that season certainly became familiar with him during that year.
He helped the Rangers win a Blue Chip Conference championship every year he played for them, and batted .500 as a sophomore, setting a conference record with 19 RBIs and posting a conference-high four home runs.
“I think a lot of it’s just kind of an attitude,” Rohleder said. “JV and varsity are still all high school kids. At some point, you’ve got to just decide, ‘I don’t want to sit the bench for two years and not play. If I want to get in there and play, I’ve got to go out and grit my teeth and hit against the best now. If you want to wait it out and allow somebody else to play ahead, then you miss opportunities.”
He focused on power at the plate. Rohleder can remember how much he wanted to crush a home run as a sophomore, and established himself as a slugger with the Rangers. However, he didn’t just wait for his pitch to make pitchers pay.
“My approach at the plate was I would swing at a first-pitch curveball,” he said. “Sometimes I would go up to the plate and a guy had a good, big looping curveball, I’d just jack that out on the first pitch. I wasn’t waiting for a fastball because I didn’t feel there was any fastball anybody was going to throw by me. I want to be ready for every pitch.”
Rohleder continued that power throughout high school and into college. His star shined brightly at Forest Park, but the Rangers have only won four sectional championships in their history, and none of them featured him on the team.
Jasper played foil to Forest Park in the sectional his sophomore and junior years as the Wildcats won the last two single-class state championships in Indiana in 1996 and 1997. High school baseball moved to a class system beginning in 1998, and Forest Park was ranked No. 3 in Class 2A at one point. But the Rangers lost, 22-4, to Evansville Mater Dei, the eventual state runner-up, in that year’s sectional.
Forest Park was ranked 10th in the state, with more wins and fewer losses than Mater Dei. The Rangers led the Wildcats, 6-4, before the latter team broke through for 16 unanswered runs in Rohleder’s final prep game.
“I think that if we would’ve beat Mater Dei, I’d say we would’ve won regional,” Rohleder said. “We may have won semistate because we could hit and we had decent pitchers.”
He inked his letter of intent to attend Wabash Valley Junior College (Ill.) following his playing days at Forest Park. Rohleder took visits to Indiana University and Indiana State University, but both places saw him as more of a walk-on for their team, and didn’t have any scholarship money for him.
Rohleder played in a lot of games, and saw more quality competition with higher velocity on the mound while he played at Wabash Valley. He learned how to take the ball the opposite way and he kept succeeding at the plate in college.
IU and ISU came around to offer him scholarships, but Rohleder opted to play the rest of his collegiate ball for the University of Evansville instead.
“I wanted to go somewhere where somebody kind of recruited me and didn’t kind of give me the cold shoulder, whatever you want to call it, before,” he said.
He continued showing some of that power for the Aces in 2001, but he especially raised his game to the next level his last season in 2002. Rohleder increased his homers, RBIs, stolen bases and discipline. His .378 batting average rose from .274 the year before, and his on-base percentage was .469 compared to .340 in 2001.
The then-Florida Marlins selected Rohleder in the 24th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He didn’t see himself as having one great tool. Rather, he thought he proved himself during the course of four years.
The 24th round may not have been a high round, but he believed in himself that he could make it to the majors.
“I guess the first thing you have to have if you want to play against guys who are going to big leaguers and stuff like that, is you have to feel you belong and that you can play with anybody,” Rohleder said.
He didn’t want to just say that he got drafted, though. Rohleder was out for more than that, and had a batting average north of .300 and an on-base percentage greater than .400 when he debuted for the Jamestown Jammers in Low-A ball in 2002.
He thought he was playing against players he saw in college, and now he just had to do it with a wooden bat and thought he had an advantage on some of the high school players that were drafted because of that prior experience.
Rohleder spent the entire 2003 season in A ball, and showed some of that power. He performed well enough in High-A ball to earn a promotion to Double A, but that’s the highest he would get in his career.
He never won a championship, but decided to give things one last go in 2006 with the Gary SouthShore RailCats in Independent ball to try to get himself a ring. Rohleder had six home runs and drove in 46 that season. The RailCats won their division and made it to the finals, only to lose to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
“I guess I just decided that it was time to make a little more money, I guess,” he said. “Sometimes I wish that I could’ve played a little longer. I just made a decision to not go so that I could start moving forward with my life.”
He’s back in Ferdinand now as the owner of Moonlight Excavating. Rohleder has done some coaching with Forest Park youth baseball and has been a varsity volunteer. He can’t imagine what it was like for the Ranger seniors to miss their entire last year of baseball, and thought the team had a chance to be good in 2020.
Rohleder has a daughter, Brynlee, who plays travel softball and could play this summer. His son, Talon, is a baseball player and is in junior high. He also could see some action in an effort to return to things after COVID-19 forced a stoppage.
“I’m excited for them just to get back out there,” Andy said.
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