After suffering a traumatic knee injury as a high school senior, Rod Ingram was told to stick to his studies. So naturally, the 1976 Linfield graduate and star baseball player went on to become a three-time Northwest Conference honoree and lead the Wildcats to four consecutive league and district championships.
Ingram, a catcher, had been weighing scholarship offers from several “big-time” programs before he went down. Once injured, his dreams of playing collegiate and major league baseball seemed to slip away. But Ingram received a life-changing phone call from Linfield head baseball coach Ad Rutschman, who wanted to give the prep star a shot with the Wildcats’ championship-caliber NAIA Division II program.
The California native arrived in McMinnville in the fall, underwent surgery in December and quickly rehabbed his knee to be ready for spring ball. While trying to reacclimatize his body to crouching behind the plate, he saw action in eight games, contributing a .304 batting average toward Linfield’s 24-14 record. The Wildcats were co-league champions that year and advanced to the postseason for the first time since winning a national title two years before.
Ingram stepped into a full-time starting role as a sophomore, and saw significant time as the team’s designated hitter. As a positive consequence of both, his offensive statistics got a definite boost. He hit a career-high .316 with six doubles, two triples and three home runs, and also stole a career-high five bases. Ingram earned the first of three career all-league honors that season, receiving the first award doled out to a designated hitter in conference history.
As a junior, Ingram moved to the outfield and was the second-most productive Wildcat in terms of RBI, driving in a total of 32 runs courtesy of a .313 batting average, seven doubles and five round-trippers. As an outfielder, he earned back-to-back all conference honors his final two seasons in a Wildcat uniform.
For his career, Ingram hit .310 with a grand total of 20 doubles, three triples and nine home runs. He stole 11 bases and posted a .910 fielding average. During his time at Linfield, the Wildcats posted four consecutive 20-win seasons, registering a 90-58 (.608) win-loss record, including 53-13 (.803) against league foes and 17-9 (.654) in playoff games.
Upon graduating from Linfield with a bachelor’s degree in education, Ingram was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round of the secondary Major League Baseball draft. But between not being able to play catcher any longer and enrolling in Linfield’s teaching certification program, he became better known as a successful coach. After many years in the high school and collegiate ranks – including a couple of years assisting his alma mater and eight seasons at the helm of the program at Saint Mary’s College of California – he briefly worked in financial planning before realizing a career outside of sports wasn’t for him.
He returned to his first love, baseball, opening up his own batting cages near his home in Pittsburg, Calif., where to this day, he trains high school and collegiate players.