KEYSER - Sports of all kinds, but particularly baseball, has played a big part in the lives of Keyser's Rotruck family. The passion for the game has been handed down through the family for generations, and the Rotrucks' legacy on the diamond is well documented in Keyser and throughout the region.
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - Sports of all kinds, but particularly baseball, has played a big part in the lives of Keyser’s Rotruck family. The passion for the game has been handed down through the family for generations, and the Rotrucks’ legacy on the diamond is well documented in Keyser and throughout the region.
That legacy has now grown, and extended as far away as Evansville, Indiana, as not one, not two, but three generations of the Rotruck family were inducted in September of this year into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame. The inductees include current Potomac State softball coach Craig Rotruck, his father Richard “Dick” Rotruck, and his grandfather, Vernon “Dick” Rotruck.
The news came this summer to Craig Rotruck with a phone call from out of the blue. “The gentleman in charge had been in contact with other area players previously inducted, and I had been mentioned early as one of the people to have been able to play. Then, someone said, well you should have seen his dad and his grandad play, all three of them are deserving of being in there as players.”
After some vetting, it was indeed determined that with their body of work, all three members of the Rotruck family were indeed worthy of the honor.
According to Craig, “He asked me if I would be willing to be accepted and then said, I also have good news, your father is being inducted along with your grandfather.”
“We drove out there, myself and my wife, my mother and father of course, and my dad’s two sisters and younger brother went out to represent their dad. We got out there on a Saturday and had a tour of the field where bricks are laid at the “Field of Honor,” in the spot of the position you played. Later that night they had a real nice banquet where we were recognized alongside the other inductees,” Craig Rotruck explained.
The youngest Rotruck inductee, Craig, began play with the Tri-Towns Merchants of the Pen-Mar League in 1984, playing through 1993. Rotruck began play as a junior in high school and continued even beyond his collegiate baseball career.
“Well, the one thing I got from it was that you had to grow up real quick playing around adults who were very good. You learned to play the game at a high level playing with and against those gentlemen. There were a lot of really good players in that league,” Craig Rotruck explained.
According to Craig Rotruck, “Tri-Towns won the championship three years in a row. But again, our team was made up of a lot of great players on those teams. Several of those guys signed professional contracts. Playing with those gentlemen was a big honor for me.”
It was about more than just developing and improving as a baseball player, it was done for the love of the game and the camaraderie that was enjoyed.
“I developed lifelong friendships with guys that I still speak to. I still even talk to guys on teams we played against like Oakland, Hyndman, Cumberland, Moorefield, Petersburg. I still have a lot of good friendships with those guys.”
It’s one thing to be honored as an individual for a special recognition such as this. It’s another thing altogether to be inducted alongside not just your father, but to see your grandfather inducted posthumously as well.
“It’s huge. My whole family has been nothing but sports oriented, playing baseball and football and basketball, with baseball being the main sport in our family. Anytime you get to go out in the backyard and play catch or toss with your dad is a big honor. For me to be inducted in the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame with my dad and my grandfather, I don’t know how much luckier or blessed I could be as a player,” Craig Rotruck reflected.
Richard “Dick” Rotruck’s journey with the Pen-Mar League began roughly twenty years earlier than his son Craigs. “I started in 1965 and played for several years for the Keyser Merchants. It was primarily a Keyser team but we had some boys from a few other places also. There were several players from this area that were very good. Then my boys started to get older and started playing in school you know, and so my attention turned to them,” Dick Rotruck explained.
“Well, I have a lot of memories playing in that league. Really, the guys that were in that league were very good. Some of them had went to the minors and came back home. I played in several All-Star games and I hit the most home runs in the league one year. I batted in the top ten several years and also hit a home run in the All-Star game,” reflected Dick Rotruck.
Just as Dick Rotruck’s journey into semi-professional baseball began some twenty years prior to his son Craigs, Dick recalls that father Vernon Rotruck’s career began roughly twenty years prior to his.
According to Dick Rotruck, “My dad, he played with the Keyser VFW and the McCoole VFW and Westvaco. Back then, that was called the Bi-State League. When he came home from the service, he probably played for 12-15 years or so, and it changed over to the Pen-Mar League then.”
As someone with a passion for the game of baseball, and a passion for family, for Dick Rotruck, the honor of being inducted alongside his son Craig and father Vernon (posthumously), represents the best of both worlds.
“It’s a great honor, and then to be out there and see the names of some of those guys where they’re putting the monument up. Babe Ruth was inducted this year too. I didn’t even know that he played in a league like that. There were several guys that had played in the major leagues, I just couldn’t believe it when I went out there. For me and dad and Craig, it’s a really an honor. I know dad, he probably couldn’t believe it if he was here to see it.”
So who was the better player, Craig, Dick or Vernon? Well, it depends on who you ask. When asked, Craig touted the play of both his dad and grandfather.
Dick Rotruck had the following to say, “Dad had more power, he hit home runs and led his team several years. I would say Craig was probably the better player all around. My dad caught, and Craig caught too, but Craig could play other places.”
In the end, it certainly doesn’t matter, and how could you even tell anyway. What we do know is that all three had what it takes to earn the honor of being inducted into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame.
When you’ve poured your heart and soul into the game you love, it’s special to earn a recognition such as this. To share that same passion for the game with your father and grandfather, and be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time, that’s a level of special that can’t be measured on the charts.