By Ray Hamill — Two local baseball players have found what they believe is the perfect stepping stone on the way to fulfilling their longtime ambitions in the sport.
Recent H-DNL graduates, Parker Rodgers of Eureka and Jenner Christiansen of Ferndale, are taking their talents to Butte College, where they will play for the Roadrunners in the next chapter of their journey.
But both players hope this won’t be the final stop along the way.
“I would love to go on to play at a four-year school,” Rodgers said. “I want to ride this baseball as far as it will take me.”
Likewise with Christiansen.
“That’s something I always wanted to do, is play baseball at a four-year university,” he said.
The talented duo have shown they clearly have the drive to succeed.
Rodgers, who was this year’s Humboldt Sports Player of the Year in baseball, is one of the most improved players on the North Coast over the past two years after having a serious chat with his father about his playing career during the summer before his sophomore year.
“I was never the best player on any of my teams, and I had a talk with my dad, and we talked about how I needed to put in more work,” said the Eureka grad, who that summer dedicated himself to become the best player he possibly could. “There were definitely days I didn’t want to out, but I realized there were greater goals than that day.”
Christiansen is clearly just as dedicated to fulfilling his dream and was one of the driving forces locally in pushing for a return to sports during the long COVID shutdown, speaking at rallies around the county.
And his hard work paid off for student athletes all across the North Coast.
“It kind of felt as if some of my friends were losing hope, and me too,” he said. “And I just didn’t know how I would handle it if I didn’t get a senior year of sports.
“It wasn’t a normal senior year, but I was super happy we got what we got.”
In addition to their obvious drive, both players are also all-league selections and clearly have the talent to succeed at the collegiate level.
And they see Butte as the perfect landing spot for now.
“They contacted me, and about a week after that they had a recruiting meeting on Zoom, and that got me really interested,” Christiansen said. “They seemed like a really legit program and that they really care about their players, academically and athletically. Their main focus is to get their players to the next level.”
Rodgers says he felt the same way, especially after talking to his Humboldt Eagles teammate Landon Gomes, who committed to the Roadrunners last year.
“He was talking to me about the team and about the hard work they put in,” Rodgers said. “Especially on the school side too, how they hold you accountable.”
Both players also paid tribute to their high school coaches, who played a big role in getting them recruited.
Ferndale head baseball coach Justin Andersen reached out to Butte head coach Anthony Ferro to recommend Christiansen, while Eureka coach Eric Giacone was instrumental in Rodgers’ addition.
“He helped me a lot,” Rodgers said of Giacone, who has helped several Eureka student athletes over the years. “And I’m really appreciative of that.”
Christiansen, a three-sport star who was named this year’s Humboldt Sports Small Schools Male Athlete of the Year, paid tribute to all of his high school coaches — Andersen in baseball, Clint McLurg in football and Dan Albee in basketball — for all they have done to help him on his journey, as well as his two biggest fans.
“My mom comes to all my games and supports me and my team,” he said. “And my dad, I’m lucky enough to have had him as a coach in football and basketball (for the past 10 years), and he’s definitely been a huge influence on my career.”
Check out video highlights below of Jenner Christiansen completing a TD pass to his younger brother Kannon earlier this year …
Rodgers also paid tribute to his parents.
“My dad has played a huge part in my attitude,” he said.
Both players say they will also remember their teammates and their many achievements together.
For Christiansen, beating Fortuna in the Milk Can and winning a North Coast Section title in basketball, both in his junior year, stand out among his most memorable achievements, as well as the time he hit two home runs in a single game against South Fork as a sophomore.
For Rodgers, winning the H-DNL baseball tournament on multiple occasions is something he’ll relish.
“My teammates in baseball, I can definitely look back and say they were my best friends,” he said. “Being with my boys on the field at the Charlie Lakin tournament and the dog piles were really memorable.”
Christiansen also paid tribute to his Ferndale neighbors and all they have done to help him on his way.
“Probably the main thing I’ll remember is the community of Ferndale,” he said. “It has a small-town feel. You know everybody and everybody wants to support you.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, says baseball has become a huge part of his life.
“As long as I can remember, I’ve been playing baseball,” he said. “I love it. It gives me a place to drop all my worries in life and go out and be myself.”