Family comes first for Raptors’ Roque
Roque, 35, enjoys his job as kitchen manager at Janesville’s Famous Dave’s Bar-B-Que. Always smiling, Roque is happy in Janesville where he lives with his wife, Linda, son Francisco, 12, and daughter Anna, 11. Both kids attend Marshall Middle School.
Roque keeps his hand in the game playing catcher for the Milton Junction Pub Raptors and tutoring Francisco Jr., who plays for the Cubs in Janesville Youth Baseball.
When he was living his dream, Roque was catching in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system from 1994 to 1999, including 1½ seasons with the Class A Beloit Snappers under manager Don Money.
Benito Santiago, a former major league catcher, recruited the 18-year-old Roque out of the Dominican Republic. Because he was so young, Roque played rookie ball in Arizona in 1994-95 and 1996 in Helena, Mont.
“I was lucky,” said Roque, who is 6 foot, 1 inches and a rock-solid 190 pounds.
Roque’s luck changed in 1995, when a broken wrist slowed his progress.
“My first couple of years were great,” Roque said. “My third year, I broke my wrist.”
After rehabilitation, Roque split time between Beloit and Class AA El Paso in 1997 for several months, replacing an injured catcher.
After playing 1998 in Beloit, Roque was promoted to the Brewers’ High A Stockton, Calif., team in 1999, but a routine ground ball took Roque in a different direction.
“I felt really good. I was catching a lot of games and was hitting really good,” Roque said. “It was one of my best years, and my knee decided to give it up.’’
Roque was running out a routine one-hopper to short.
“My foot stepped on (the first baseman’s) shoe, and my knee popped,” Roque said.
Roque went through rehab and returned to Stockton, but he reinjured the knee, leaving him with a decision to make. He chose his family over the game.
“The Brewers called me in 2000 and asked me how my knee was doing,” Roque said. “Baseball is something I always dreamed of playing, but I told the Brewers I have a family to take care of. I told the Brewers, ‘I don’t think I can make it this year,’ and that was my last year.’’
The decision was not easy.
“It was hard for the first year,” Roque said. “You get used to it.’’
Getting on with life meant settling on a place for his family to live. Roque liked Janesville.
“I think for my kids, it was the schools,” said Roque, who was married in Arizona in 1996. “I used to live in Arizona, and I’m not saying it’s horrible, but the thing is here it’s quiet.
“There is a lot of opportunity here for my kids, and (Francisco Jr.) is playing baseball now, and he’s loving baseball.’’
Roque was forced to leave his dream behind, but he has not turned his back on baseball. After a three-year stint with a Hispanic league team in Rockford, Ill., he found a better fit in 2008 with the Raptors in the Rock River League.
A switch from using aluminum bats in Rockford to wood bats in the Rock River League made Roque more comfortable.
“Francisco hits line drives, and you can tell he’s had a ton of repetitions,” Raptors coach Doug Welch said. “The Rockford league uses aluminum bats, and when you put one in Francisco’s hands, he becomes very dangerous.’’
Roque said using an aluminum bat made him nervous.
“I hit some hard balls, and I might kill the guy at third base,’” Roque said. “I swing hard.’’
Age has slowed Roque—he no longer throws in the high 80s to second base—but his work is top shelf for the Raptors.
“He has established himself as one of the best catchers in the league,” Welch said. “He is the guy on our team that everyone asks about.’’
Roque is glad he found the Raptors.
“I really enjoying playing for Doug,” Roque said. “We have a bunch of good guys on this team.’’
Former Brewer Cecil Cooper and Roque’s brother, Raphael, who pitched for the Brewers and is a pitching coach in the Kansas City Royals system, have offered Roque minor league coaching jobs.
While it’s tempting to return to his dream, Roque remains comfortable with his family in Janesville.
“I’d like to coach minor leagues, but I have my kids,” Roque said. “They are 11 and 12, and maybe when they get a little older, I can think about it.’’
Roque wants to give his children every chance to make their dreams come true. He knows how difficult that can be.
Last updated: 2:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012