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Roenicke follows family into the big leagues

Roenicke follows family into the big leagues

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Roenicke follows family into the big leagues
DENVER -- Rockies relief pitcher Josh Roenicke has plenty of chances to show his father how well he is doing.

Gary Roenicke, a former big league outfielder, is a Major League professional scout, now with the Brewers and before that with the Orioles. Gary lives in the Los Angeles area, so that means plenty of Rockies games for him. It also means it's a good idea for Josh Roenicke to begin syncing his good performances with the times that dad is in the stadium.

"Usually when he comes to see me, I don't have a good game," Roenicke said with a laugh. "He said, 'Dude, is there something different when I'm there?' I think it was just coincidence. He's been to a few when I've thrown well, so hopefully I can turn that around."

For Gary Roenicke, it's Father's Day any time he is in the park when Josh is pitching -- that is, if Father's Day is supposed to bring stress and worry.

"No. 1, I'm very proud of what he's doing, and honored that I'm his father and he's getting that opportunity, even though it's nerve wracking on me," he said. "You want your kid to do well. So it's good that the last couple of times I've watched him, he's played well. He pitched very well in San Diego [three scoreless innings], and in Los Angeles, the only run off him was a squeeze bunt.

"His mother [Debby Roenicke] is much more relaxed than I am."

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Dad was there for one of Josh's best performances -- three scoreless innings with two hits, two walks and two strikeouts in the Rockies' 3-2 road loss to the Padres at Petco Park on May 7. It was one of the games that allowed Roenicke to earn increased innings in bigger situations for the Rockies.

Roenicke's job for the Brewers -- whose manager happens to be Ron Roenicke, Gary's brother and Josh's uncle -- is to look at strengths and weaknesses of players who may be facing the Brewers or may be available to join the club someday. But as Father's Day approaches, Josh Roenicke is happy that while growing up, his dad offered support more than opinions, and let him blaze his athletic path rather than try to direct him.

Gary Roenicke coached a team of 12-year-olds that included another of his sons, Jarrett, who would play in the Padres' organization and in independent baseball. Josh was on the team as a 9-year-old. Being that young, Josh could run and field with the older players, but hitting and especially throwing were challenges. Gary Roenicke and a family friend who also coached the club simply let Josh play and enjoy the game, which made the experience fun.

"We had me [and] my brother, and my good buddy's dad was the coach, also," Josh said. "We were 18-0, I remember that. There were good times. It was a good team, and we had lots of friends. There was good coaching. They were strict and tough, but we were competitive and we enjoyed it."

Josh would continue to play positions such as third base and center field, and do little pitching. It wasn't even clear how far he would go in baseball.

He was good at basketball, soccer and volleyball, and good enough at football to earn a shot at the quarterback job at UCLA. He moved to wide receiver, but it was only after getting to college that he began to think baseball was his sport and that he had a future on the mound.

Gary Roenicke said his father had a similar philosophy with him and Ron. Gary was an outfielder with the Expos, Orioles, Yankees and Braves from 1976-88. Ron was an outfielder with the Dodgers, Mariners, Padres, Giants, Phillies and Reds from 1981-88, and has had success as a manager. The family never bought into the specialization that's forced upon young athletes these days.

"I'm a firm believer in not specializing in one sport growing up, because you have a burnout stage," Gary said. "You've got to let kids be kids. We thought football was going to be his sport, but he's worked really hard [at baseball]. I'm proud of him. He went through that up-and-down period with Cincinnati and Toronto, bouncing between Triple-A and the Majors. He seems to be hitting his stride with the Rockies."

Roenicke talked the UCLA coaching staff into putting him on the mound for a couple of innings his sophomore year. His junior year, he wasn't called upon to pitch at all. Finally, he was allowed to throw 13 relief innings as a senior. That was enough for the Reds to notice and take him in the 10th round in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

That might not have happened had he been pressured out of his multiple sports early.

"Back when I was young, I was playing every sport," Josh said. "[My dad] said, 'Do what you want, whatever makes you happy.' He knew I liked three sports. I liked being in-season, instead of in offseasons. I did baseball, football, basketball, volleyball and soccer. There was a lot going on.

"He didn't force anything on me, just helped me go with the flow. He said when I got to college, I could decide what sport I wanted to focus on. I played two for a few years, then decided to focus on baseball."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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