Robertson Staying the Course

PEORIA, AZ: If you are a sports fan as you get older more and more we begin to think about our own athletic careers, what went wrong and things we could have done to be better.

Now for most of us the stakes are pretty low, maybe making a sports team or if we had worked on something more we could have started and maybe made an all-league team.

Let's up the ante a little bit.

Imagine now you are playing professionally and that your dream has always been to be a major league player and you are now one step away. Along the way people have let you know for a variety of reasons why you wouldn't make it; too short, not enough talent, someone ahead of you is better among other things.

Welcome to the world of Dan Robertson.

Robertson, all five-foot-eight, 185 lbs. of him, was drafted in the thirty-third round of the 2008 draft and along with relief pitcher Nick Vincent, are the only two guys left from that class.

He has had a good run, his career slash line is .304/.381/.410, was the MVP of the Northwest League in 2008 and he was a starter on two championship teams; in Fort Wayne in 2009 and with San Antonio in 2011. Last year in AAA Tucson he hit .362/.45/.521 with eight stolen bases in nine attempts in April and seemed to be on the verge of getting his first shot at the major leagues.

But it didn't happen.

Instead other players were given looks and opportunities, which took its toll on the perpetually optimistic Robertson.

"Last year was the biggest mental grind that I ever went through," said Robertson at the end of spring training. "I was so lucky to have Murph [Pat Murphy, the manager of last year's Tucson Padres and the current manager of the El Paso Chihuahuas] because he helped me cut through all of the stuff that you start telling yourself to feel better."

"That was the crossroads. I can either let this eat me up or I can continue to be the spark-plug but sometimes things detour that."

"Every pro player reaches that. You look yourself in the mirror and ask "is this worth it?" and the answer is yes."

What drives Robertson is the same thing that would drive many of us, the need to have the knowledge that even if you don't make it you gave it your very best shot.

"Obviously everyone wants to make the major leagues; that is why we are here."

"But if you don't make it, you have to know that you gave yourself every opportunity to do so."

"Then again it's something that is easy to say but another thing to do it."

"If you want the dream to come true, you can't stop."

After hitting a career low of .196 in July Robertson came back, despite battling a painful foot injury, to hit .318/.387/.418 in August before embarking on his second stint in winter ball. In La Liga Mexico Pacifica, he hit .293/.368/.392 in an atmosphere that differed significantly from the prospect laden Dominican Winter League that he played in the year before.

"It's just a different type of baseball," Robertson said on his experiences.

"In Mexico its pure baseball; every pitch and every at-bat matters. If you want to get ready to play in the big leagues that is what you need; where people care about baseball. It doesn't matter who you are, if you are a big leaguer or whatever, if you aren't doing what they want you to be doing it's time to go."

Returning to the Padres this spring he found a crowded outfield at both the AA and AAA levels despite having a solid camp found himself on the injured list coming out of camp.

For Robertson, whose entire athletic career seems predicated on proving the opposite of what people think he can do, it was just another bump in the road.

In mid-April he was added to the El Paso Chihuahuas roster as a second baseman, a position he had only played a few times before in his professional career and not on a regular basis since his first years of high school.

Despite not having faced live competition for nearly three weeks, and having a ready-made excuse of still being rusty, Robertson responded with a first at-bat home run on his way to a four for five day with another home run and a double. In his first four games he had seven hits in 18 at-bats with only one error in the field.

The odds are not great for a twenty-eight year old player to make it to the major leagues after playing five years at other positions.

But go ahead and tell Dan Robertson that, because he's kind of heard it before.

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