For historical value, Medford native Cole Carder would have fit in perfectly in Teddy Roosevelt’s camp.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far,” is one of Roosevelt’s famous phrases, and is a definite fit for Carder, who doesn’t talk too much but says a lot with his play on the baseball diamond.
A 2016 South Medford High graduate and former Medford Mustangs standout, Carder has been on a tear this summer as center fielder and leadoff hitter for the Medford Rogues, a collegiate wood-bat summer league team in the Great West League.
Entering Tuesday’s games, the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder leads the GWL in batting average (.412), runs scored (35) and stolen bases (11). He is tied for second in doubles (11) and, at .622, is second only to teammate Tommy Ahlstrom in slugging percentage to help power the second-place Rogues (21-17).
“He’s been a fire starter for us the entire season,” says Rogues right fielder A.J. Miller of Carder. “He’s definitely the guy who gets it going for us offensively and he’s one of the leaders on our team, one of our silent leaders. He leads by actions, he doesn’t talk too much.”
Being quiet has always been Carder’s style, although with each passing year, he says he has focused on trying to become more vocal around his teammates.
“I’m a quiet guy but I think I’ve opened up a lot faster than I have in the past,” says Carder, 20, of this summer. “I’m just trying to be as good of a teammate as I can. If you need me to lay down a bunt, I’ll lay down a bunt; if you need me to talk to somebody and help them out, I’ll help them out. I’m trying to be more of a teammate and more of a team guy and a more vocal guy.”
While the off-field chatter is a work in progress, his on-field work has been a revelation this summer for those in the Rogues organization. Carder has hit safely in 21 of his last 24 games entering Tuesday’s clash with San Francisco and has anchored the defense in center field.
“Cole has all the tools to be a professional baseball player,” says Rogues manager Tyler Graham, “and I think he could be a very good (Division I) baseball player. He’s raw but he has all the tools and he’s willing to learn. He plays the game the right way. Every single day he brings it, so he’s been a treat to have and he’s definitely been the MVP of our team the first half.”
On Monday, Carder was named the Great West League Player of the Week after a recent stretch saw him go 14-for-27 (.519) with three home runs, seven RBIs and four stolen bases.
“It was pretty cool to get an award like that,” says Carder, “but I wouldn’t be able to do it without the coaches helping me, obviously, and my past coaches implementing certain things into my head to just have confidence every time I go to the field.”
And while it may seem unusual given the numbers he’s put up, confidence was another focal point as Carder continues to work on his total game before he plans to join University of Antelope Valley in the fall.
“This game is a lot more mental than skill,” notes Carder, “and if you can show up to the yard every day and have confidence in yourself and your teammates, and more confidence than the other team, you’re going to usually come out on top. If you can be confident and train your mind to always know that you’re going to get the results that you want then I think you’ll be fine.”
Carder has played two seasons at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany.
His first season was nondescript, but his sophomore campaign proved to be a big step forward. He led the team in RBIs (41), home runs (five), doubles (15) and stolen bases (16) while batting .307 and finishing second on the squad with 40 runs.
Along the way, Linn-Benton posted a 42-4 record under head coach and former Crater player Ryan Gipson, and Carder was named second-team All-Northwest Athletic Conference and was a Gold Glove winner.
“We obviously won a ton of games in a row and we put in a lot of work to do it,” says Carder. “We definitely got the results but once we got to the postseason it didn’t really turn out the way we wanted. It was a good year, though, and I definitely learned a lot.”
It’s been Carder’s willingness to learn and progress that has been a welcomed commodity for the Rogues this summer.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” says Graham. “He comes and gets his early work in, and the kid works hard. He’s into the game mentally the entire game and he plays hard the entire game every game, so there’s nothing more that we can ask that Cole’s not done.”
For Carder’s part, the work ethic comes from a basic desire to one day achieve his dream goal.
“I think it’s just the common goal for every guy who plays college baseball, they want to be a professional baseball player,” he says. “You’re going to work as hard as you can toward that because you get one chance, so I think each year I see it gets a little closer and closer and when you get a little bit of interest, you want more.”
And when you get a chance to be around someone like Graham who has played in the major leagues and continues to mold top talents at Oregon State, that’s a resource Carder is more than happy to call upon.
“I was hitting the ball decently well with little dink base hits and singles,” says Carder, “and then coach Graham came in and taught me a lot of stuff really just in this first week (of returning from the College World Series). I think the results that I’ve gotten from that are remarkable so I’m definitely trying to pick his brain and get more before we get out of here.”
And like the rest of the Rogues, Carder says he’s hoping to do whatever he can to help bring another GWL championship back to Medford this summer.
“We think if we can get the second or third seed we can definitely make a run at Chico in the championship series,” he says. “We’ve just got to come together as a team and make it happen. We just want to win for these fans here. It’s really cool to see all the support that we get from them.”