Vietnam-era veteran is quite a sport

When Ralph Rogers graduated from high school, he decided that joining the U.S. Navy was the next thing he would do.
“My draft number was three,” he said. “I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army. I decided that the Navy was better. My Dad had been in the Navy in World War II and I decided to go that route and enlist in the Navy.”
Rogers took a delayed entry and had the summer off before heading to San Diego for boot camp. There he was selected for the nuclear weapons program and went to advanced training in the Great Lakes, following which he went to weapons school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was then assigned to Moffit Air Force Base in California.
It was there that he married his wife and began a family. He re-enlisted and was sent to St. Mogens in Newquay England where he worked with the Royal Air Force for three years. After England, he and his family moved back to California where he was stationed on the USS Enterprise. By 1978 he found himself re-assigned to Bremerton where he worked at Bangor with SWFPAC. He was chosen to be a traveling instructor in the nuclear weapons training program.
“It was a great assignment,” he said. “I was part of a team that traveled and met up with ships and taught about terrorism, incident procedures and special weapons. We would fly into the nearest country and fly (by helicopter) out to meet the ship and then fly back to the shore.”
Some classes were taught in port and some at sea. Among the favorite places that Rogers got to go were the Far East, Europe, Korea, Singapore, Hawaii and Australia. While he was teaching, he was based in San Diego, but his family stayed in Bremerton.
“The kids were all in school and we had a home here,” he said. “So every three of four weeks, I’d get to come home. My kids were in the car a lot in those years, driving down to McChord (Air Force Base) to pick me up.”
During this time his wife, Sandra, worked for the Bremerton School District and his five children continued their education. After three years teaching, Rogers was re-assigned to SWFPAC at Bangor. He began looking for a business that he could own when he retired from the Navy. That was when he found J&J Embroidery and purchased the company that embroiders names on uniforms and other clothing.
That business grew and in 1987 he opened a sporting goods store which sells all kinds of retail sporting goods, uniforms, equipment, banners, decals and posters. He has a full time artist and can create custom embroidery and designs on just about any fabric. His business offers full service screen printing too.
“It was just a natural progression from the embroidery business,” he said. “We thought there was a need for a sporting goods store here in Bremerton.”
Now, 25 years later, Team Sports is still operating at 1550 NE Riddell Rd., Suite 110. While all of his children have worked at times in the store, his two sons, Matt and Bryan are current employees. For awhile they also had a T-shirt shop at Fred Meyer, but a slow economy caused them to close that store.
Keeping the store open has been difficult, Rogers said.
“In the past few years, sales have been down almost 50 percent,” he said. “But it’s not just the economy. We’re being hurt by the Internet. So many people are shopping online instead of around the corner.”
He’s working on having the store enter the online age by getting a Website up and running and a Facebook page. He also is trying to work with local school districts to come back to doing business with him.
“Some of them have left because they are getting deals through Nike online,” he said. “We’re trying to compete with that but it’s hard. I just think the local schools should support the local businesses.”
The store offers T-shirts and sweatshirts with the local schools mascots printed on them. The store has a full stock of baseball needs for the upcoming season and many other things, such as discs for ultimate (Frisbee) competitions, soccer needs, and all the extras.
He sells uniforms to doctors and dentists employees and embroiders names on them, and he make shirts for contractors and landscapers who want to advertise their company while employees are working. Golf shirts also are a big part of his business. And he gives discounts to customers who are veterans and active military.
Rogers said with his Navy retirement and his wife’s income they can manage to keep the store going, but for how long, he’s not sure.
“We haven’t taken a paycheck in years,” he said. “My hope is just to be able to pass the store on to my sons.”
Rogers participates in the American Legion Post 149 in Bremerton and he enjoys time with his seven grandchildren.
He has quite a collection of autographed footballs and softballs including signatures from Warren Moon and Norm Johnson. He also collects bobble heads and fire house memorabilia because he serves as a fire district commissioner.
Rogers is grateful for the time he spent in the Navy and the places he was able to see. England was especially wonderful.
“I think that’s why we ended up in the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “Because the weather is so much like England.”