Roger Doman spent the better part of eight years throughout the 1990s waking up and heading to the ballpark to put on his jersey before making a living on the mound.
He has countless memories as a farmhand for the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though his professional pitching career came to an end after the 1998 season, one of Doman’s most-cherished memories in baseball came last year when he took the mound for the Joplin Outlaws in their exhibition against the Joplin Playmakers.
The reason it was a moment he will never forget: Doman’s now 7-year-old son, RJ (Roger Jr.), got to watch his dad pitch in a competitive environment for the first time in his life.
“This is something special for me,” Doman said with a smile. “My son got to see me pitch for the first time last year. Neither my son nor my daughter got to see me pitch during my professional career. I am not as young as I used to be, but I always have baseball in my heart. To be able to share this with them, I can’t even put it into words. It’s very special for me.”
Doman, a 1991 graduate of Joplin High School, was selected in the fourth round of the 1991 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Blue Jays as a right-handed pitcher. He played his first seven years of professional baseball in the Toronto organization before spending his final season in the Pirates’ organization.
In his time in the minors, Doman started his career in the rookie Gulf Coast League at age 18 before climbing his way up to multiple stints at the AAA level in both organizations before hanging up his spikes in 1998. During that time, he pitched all over the country, as well as in Canada, making memories and building friendships along the way.
“I could sit here for hours reminiscing about guys I played with and guys I played against,” Doman said. “Just being able to get out there and compete was huge. That was really fun, and nothing can take away from that.
“I lived in Canada for three months. I lived in New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. I have a lot of guys that I played with from all over the world that I still keep in touch with. There are just a lot of memories that I cherish.”
Saturday’s exhibition against the Playmakers is the third time Doman suited up for the Outlaws in the name of charity. His first time came after the devastating 2011 Joplin tornado, where his daughter, Elizabeth, now 13, first witnessed her dad pitch. The second time dawning the Outlaws’ jersey came last year, but Doman didn’t anticipate there would be a third occasion. That is, until RJ, the Outlaws’ batboy, wanted an encore.
“I wasn’t going to pitch this year, but (RJ) told me he really wanted to see me throw again,” Doman said. “I told him I would see how my arm felt because that’s the important thing. It’s not that my heart or mind isn’t there; it’s that my arm isn’t what it used to be. What’s special is, he is the batboy this year, so I get to share the moment with him.”
Doman is an athletic trainer with Freeman Health Systems. And at the age of 46, he understands the true value of stretching in preparation for his return to the mound.
“Well, I would have liked to have had a little more preparation for this,” Doman said with a laugh. “Stretching has been a big deal. The biggest thing for me: I just don’t want to get hurt. I still want to be able to throw batting practice for my son, or play catch with my daughter, just being a dad.
“I don’t throw as hard as I used to, but there is still a lot of stretching going on. It still feels good to get back on the mound.”
Doman worked a clean sixth inning for the Outlaws in a 10-2 win over the Playmakers on Saturday night at Joe Becker Stadium, inducing a pair of groundouts, before walking a batter and ending the inning on a popup.
Though his appearances on the mound are few and far between, Doman relishes the chance to give back to the community in any capacity in the name of baseball, which includes helping to raise money for the Joplin Outlaws on Veteran’s Appreciation Night.
After all, baseball is a game that has provided Doman with endless amounts of joy in his life. It only seems fair to share as much wisdom as possible with the younger generations.
“It’s fun to be able to put the uniform back on again,” Doman said. “It’s even more special because they are raising money and awareness for veterans. To be a part of this is awesome.
“The best thing I can do, with everything I have accomplished in my life through baseball, is to pass it forward. I think that is the best way to honor everyone who helped me out along the way, including all of my coaches and teammates.”