It’s immediately obvious that Scott Rogowsky is not your typical baseball media member. For a trip to Citi Field last week, he eschewed some sort of neutral button-down for a screen-printed Mets shirsey. As the Braves took BP, Rogowsky leaned against the backstop behind home plate discussing their World Series chances, but then turned his attention to the tweens standing between the players and himself.
Sharpies and programs held out in hope, the throng runs about three-deep, with a small string cordoning them off from the field. Somehow, no one turns around and recognizes their onetime QuizDaddy, who spent 2018 getting mobbed by fans at Governor’s Ball, appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, inspiring Halloween costumes and being profiled by The New York Times, all when he wasn’t performing on millions of phone screens every night at 9 p.m. during a new edition of HQ Trivia. A year later, the crowd’s silence speaks volumes. They literally have turned their backs. But Rogowsky doesn’t mind.
“I used to be these kids,” he says before channeling their one-track mindset (in the same New York accent his ‘HQties’ came to love). Gotta get those autographs. Need those autos. Back in the day, Rogowsky’s father would take him to spring training in Florida, crisscrossing the state from Plant City to West Palm, so he could get rack up as many signed baseball cards as possible. He got thousands of them, ordering them alphabetically when he returned home to New York.
He “read” a book that was really a catalogue of every baseball player from the 1950s, Aaron to Zuverink. He sent letters to retired greats asking for a signature—and a story, like what their first at-bat was like. To this day, Rogowsky keeps a picture of himself in his wallet from a childhood trip to Cooperstown: Tampa Bay Rays hat, granny glasses, gap teeth, oversized Georgia Bulldogs tee and, of course, a paper bag of cards in his hand. Ok, so Scott was actually way dorkier than the kids he’s now looking at.
While virality didn’t get Rogowsky noticed pregame, it got him a dream job he’d never dreamed of. Five nights a week this season, he co-hosted ChangeUp, a live whiparound show from MLB’s New Jersey studios for streaming platform DAZN. The worst part of the gig though, Rogowsky explains, is suppressing the urge for autos. He’s in the biz now, after all. But then, slowly, over the course of the evening it becomes clear he never really quit.
Rogowsky admits to asking Indians great Travis Haffner for his siggy at this year’s All Star Game in Cleveland. He’s, let’s just say, dissuaded from asking his MLB Network peers for their marks, but when Kevin Millar came on set, he couldn’t help himself. (He’s got other network stars’ cards in his office, just in case.) Rogowsky maintains multiple eBay accounts—under pseudonyms, naturally—where he’s constantly buying and selling officially signed cards, even while he’s in the studio. When pitching prospect Casey Mize threw a no-hitter in AA, Rogowsky scooped up an auto. He did the same when Griffin Canning started hot in his Angels debut. “I probably lost money on that one,” Rogowsky admits. “It’s like he’s trading stocks, it’s unbelievable,” co-host Adnan Virk says. “He’s constantly checking prices. It was really funny to see how invested he was. It made me very sentimental.”
This winter, amidst discontent at HQ, Rogowsky got the invite to audition for ChangeUp. Reading over a prepared clip during the tryout, “I’m like, holy s---, I’m doing a highlight reel, like, this is SportsCenter,” Rogowsky says. “It hit me in the moment like, this is a dream…. I love it.”
Still under contract at the trivia startup, Rogowsky had to convince his agent about his decision. Pre-HQ, Rogowsky had spent over a decade as a striving comic. Before getting his big break, he was living at his parents’ home and preparing to move to Los Angeles in the hopes of going big with his live show, Always Late with Scott Rogowsky. A sports broadcasting job didn’t quite fit the trajectory. So what, Rogowsky ultimately decided. “I don't care about right moves,” he said then and now. Having taken HQ from two viewers to two commas worth of viewers, as Rogowsky says, it was time for a new challenge. Plus, working with Virk, Rogowsky has had plenty of opportunities to continue honing his schtick.
After going through countless “Stuff To Know...” pre-game segments, Rogowsky introduced “Stuff You Didn’t Need to Know,” with bogus—and gonzo—“facts.” Stop, drop, shut it down, take you the Trop, he said at one point, channeling DMX while talking about the Rays’ home at Tropicana Field.
“Right out of the gate he was sending topics,” executive producer Logan Swaim says. “After the two of us had an initial conversation, he sent me like 20 ideas like a producer would.” Not all of them make the air though, including the final note of “Sincerely Yours,” when Rogowsky pens messages to Virk as if players were sending them in. “It was too inflammatory,” Virk explains. “I read one the previous time that was really funny and … our excellent producer said, ‘Do me a favor, censor yourself.’” (All Rogowsky reveals is that the line centered around a producer’s celebrity crush.)
“I’ve already lost one job this year,” Virk jokes, “I don’t need to lose another.”
Now it’s time for Rogowsky to make his way up to a Citi Field box, where he’ll host a score of DAZN subscribers. Many of them, he’ll learn, signed up more for the platform’s boxing events than its baseball coverage. Rogowsky describes year one at DAZN as a test run. Hired days before the season, there was no time to develop a big marketing push, and the service changed its pricing structure around the same time. He and Virk have developed an undeniable bond, but figuring out how best to present it remains a challenge.
With a couple playoff pregame shows airing on Twitter and YouTube still to go, Rogowsky already has plans for how the show can improve next season. Maybe they lose the desk entirely and go to a bean bag set up. They’ll almost certainly show up more often on social platforms.
Between now and then, Rogowsky will return to the stand-up circuit. He squeezed in a few performances this year, keeping joke ideas in Apple Notes as they popped up on his way to and from the studio. He’s looking forward to doing more this offseason and possibly bringing back Running Late. He doesn’t see himself ever giving up his comedy dreams. Rogowsky has even combined his comedy and his collecting, with a charitable vintage t-shirt flipping business and corresponding web series.
Odds are the funnyman will break back into the public consciousness soon enough. But given how crazy that got last time—with his mattress, condom size, and dating life all becoming topics of online conversation—it’s smart of him to enjoy this endless summer, even if the Mets have gone down 2-0 in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the inning, New York’s Pete Alonso hits his 52nd home run of the season—tying the rookie record. Rogowsky, one of TimeOut’s 2018 New Yorkers of the Year, gets up from his suite seat to salute the city’s current star. He hollers and claps. 52, baby! He high-fives those around him before moving to the railing for Alonso’s curtain call. Somewhere along the way, Rogowsky mixes in with the throng, disappearing among the fans with a smile on his face.