On June 25, over 5,000 fans saw Milwaukee Brewers prospect Cameron Roegner pitch four perfect innings in relief for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, protecting a 3-2 lead and preserving a win over the Kane County Cougars. A few months later, he’s demonstrating his control for a slightly smaller audience, as one of Milwaukee’s newest Uber and Lyft drivers.
Roegner, a Beloit native who went to college at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, was the Brewers’ 22nd round pick in the 2016 MLB draft, the 651st player selected overall. A tall left-handed pitcher, Roegner has experienced significant success across three professional levels, posting a 3.39 earned run average that was easily better than the league average everywhere he’s played. He spent the full 2017 season close to home with the Timber Rattlers, making 19 appearances and striking out a more-than-respectable 8.3 batters per nine innings.
Following the season, Roegner packed up his things and moved to Milwaukee, where he and a roommate are sharing a Walker’s Point apartment for the winter. Roegner said he’s enjoying his new home.
“I love it here. It’s a big city. There’s everything to do, but the people are small town people, kind of,” Roegner says. “You don’t get that busy-ness, that rush that you get in some of the other cities.”
Though his Rattlers season is over, Roegner still has bills to pay. Baseball players in the minors are only paid during the season, so they experience a long gap between paydays during the winter. Some players are able to get by with money left over from the signing bonuses from their first professional contract, but, as a college senior and a 22nd round pick, Roegner didn’t exactly strike it rich on his first deal. As such, he’s signed up to drive for ride sharing services as an offseason job.
“You’re not making income from the Brewers in the offseason, so you’ve just got to find a way to make some spending cash, make ends meet with the rent,” Roegner says. “I wanted something pretty flexible, so that I can go see my family when I have some time, and do some other things.”
It’s still early in the offseason, so Roegner said he’s still waiting for his first great ride-sharing story.
“No great Uber stories yet,” Roegner says. “I’ve only driven a couple of days because I haven’t been here on the weekend, but I’m looking forward to meeting some interesting people, that’s for sure.”
Even the sober passengers in Roegner’s car might not have any idea they’re riding with a professional baseball player. He said he hasn’t been recognized since moving to Milwaukee, and his career details aren’t something he often shares with strangers.
“I try to stay a little low key with all that,” he says.
Roegner’s offseason was supposed to start with a road trip with some friends. Those plans were derailed when he was sidelined with a minor shoulder injury in early August. Instead of spending the month of September touring the Pacific Northwest in a van, he spent much of it working with physical therapists and athletic trainers at Froedtert Sports Medicine.
“You know, the most important thing is this is my career,” Roegner says. “To get healthy, that’s obviously the most important thing, and to make sure there are no issues going into the offseason, so I can train confidently knowing that I’m going to be healthy [when pitchers and catchers report to spring training] come February.”
All those training and rehab sessions are expected to come to an end this week, when Roegner is scheduled to meet with Brewers team doctor William Raasch. He said he hopes to be medically cleared to start offseason workouts. Trying to make the most of the long break between the end of the minor league season on Labor Day and the start of spring training is one of the toughest parts of his life in professional baseball.
“It’s an exciting time because you have five, six months to just work and get better and work on your craft. You’re never given five, six months on your own in your whole career until you get to pro ball,” Roegner says. “But it can be stressful. That window’s small, especially as an older college player. So you’re constantly balancing, ‘I know that I’m working hard, I know that I’m working as hard as I can, but am I doing the right things?’ Every day you’re like, ‘Am I doing the right stuff to maximize my potential?'”
As a self-described “older college guy,” Roegner is aware that the clock is ticking on his professional baseball career. At 24 years old, he was one of the older players of the 2017 Timber Rattlers, and as such, he’ll be competing with much younger players for spots on a team next spring and each spring for the remainder of his career. Despite all the challenges that come with the minor league grind, he said he’s not ready to start thinking about a post-baseball life.
“I think for me, I’m just trying to put all my chips on the table,” Roegner says. “I’m all in on baseball right now. If the Brewers tell me at some point, ‘That’s not going to work out for you,’ then we’ll go to that Plan B.”