MLB

OPEN MIC: Dave Roberts

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Over the last season-plus, the Los Angeles ¿ has emerged as one of the most dangerous speed threats in the National League. Finally a starter for the first time in his major-league career, Roberts rewarded the ¿ faith last season by batting .277 (bolstered by 17 bunt hits, third most in the NL) and stealing 45 bags, the most by a Los Angeles player since committed larceny 51 times in 1999. It¿s been a long, winding road for Roberts, who¿s currently on the disabled list with an achy hamstring, but he seems to have finally found a niche as a quick, slap-hitting leadoff hitter with the . His professional career began in 1994 with Jamestown in the Detroit organization and took him through stops with the Oakland and the Cleveland , and although he¿s shown pop — Roberts slugged 13 homers with Buffalo in 2000 — the 5¿10¿ speedster admitted to us that he¿s done away with any sort of power in his game whatsoever. FOXSports.com sat down with Roberts recently to discuss that, the art of bunting for a base hit, his recovery from a number of surgeries and more: Your game has really emerged over the last couple of seasons. How have you changed your approach? I think I¿ve gone to really trying consistently to hit the ball on the ground and hitting line drives, and just doing away with any type of home runs or any type of power. I just stick to my game as far as being a contact hitter. It¿s basically the same game (I¿ve always had), honestly. You worked a lot this spring with Maury Wills, who was legendary for his bunting ability. If you can break it down to just the basics, what¿s the most important thing about getting a bunt down at the major-league level? Placement. You¿ve got to take your time and put it in the right spot. A lot of people tend to rush, to try and hurry things up (so they can) get out of the box quicker, and they compromise placement. The biggest thing Maury emphasized to me is placement, and also just having confidence. Even though they know that you¿re going to bunt, and they play in and stuff like that, don¿t let them take that away from you. What factors into your decision on the bases as far as whether to run or not run in a certain situation, or against a certain pitcher? Obviously, the score. The score probably is the number one key. Aside from that, Maury also tells me that it doesn¿t matter how quick the pitcher is to the plate, or how good his move is to first base, or who the catcher is. If you get a good jump, you should be able to steal the base. I think that¿s instilled in me and I have the ability and confidence to steal a base at any point in time. But I think the score dictates it a lot, because if you¿re down by a lot, it¿s not worth the risk. Or if you¿re up by a lot. Oh yeah (smiles). If you¿re up by a lot, you definitely don¿t want to disrespect your opponent. You were a three-sport athlete in high school (baseball, basketball, football). What made you choose baseball as your livelihood? I stopped growing (laughs). My first love was football, but I figured I had a better chance to play at a higher level in baseball. Baseball was always just a hobby of mine; I played it because it was in season. Football was a passion of mine, but I¿ve learned that I love the game of baseball. Were you always a fast athlete, or was garnering speed something you had to train for? I¿ve always been one of the quickest guys, and one of the smallest guys too. That¿s one of the beautiful thing about this game, is that you can be small and there¿s still a place for you. It¿s a beautiful game. You¿ve played with four different organizations now. What¿s the hardest thing about being traded? I think the hardest part about being traded is the environment around you. You¿re around different guys that you don¿t know, whether it¿s the guys on the team or the staff around the team. I think the whole environment is a change and a big adjustment for me and my family. You had to come back from a pair of surgeries on your shoulder (torn labrum in Dec. 2000 and rotator cuff fraying in June 2001). What was the most challenging part about that? The challenging part is just to come back. You¿re going to have some pain but you just have to realize that you¿re going to be OK to go. You just have to try and trick your mind into thinking that you¿re OK, and convince yourself that it¿s OK to play at 100 percent. What went through your mind when the doctors told you that surgery was going to be necessary? Well, actually, I had to have reconstructive knee surgery in high school, and I wasn¿t supposed to play sports ever again. That crushed me, but I just used that as motivation to get back. Then I had the two shoulder surgeries, and I already had gone through the tough knee surgery, so I knew I¿d be back and just kind of bided my time. You were never supposed to play again? Yeah, the first doctor we talked to said my sports career would be over. As a 16-year-old, that¿s tough to take. We got that second opinion and had it done. When you were a center fielder in the Cleveland organization, you were behind on the ¿ depth chart. When players are in the minor leagues, how closely do players really watch the guys who are ahead of them? You know what — a long time ago, someone told me when you¿re in the minor leagues, you don¿t worry about the big leagues, and when you¿re in the big leagues, you don¿t worry about the minor leagues. That always stuck with me in the minor leagues. It¿s out of your control — you have to just go out there and play. I couldn¿t worry about what was doing when he was ahead of me in Cleveland, and when in you¿re in the big leagues, you just don¿t want to look back. You have to focus on going forward, and not who¿s pressing you from behind. I didn¿t worry about it too much, I just tried to go out there and play my game. What do you like to do in your spare time away from baseball? I enjoy playing golf and spending time with my family, my wife (Tricia) and my son (Cole David, 2). During the season, I just kind of relax and rest my body to prepare it for the next night. I don¿t do a whole lot, I just kind of relax, chill out and listen to music. What are your tastes in music? Mostly R&B. I¿ll listen to it all, but my favorite music is mostly R&B. My favorite artist is probably Sade, she just helps me to relax. If you weren¿t a baseball player, what do you think you¿d be doing? If I wasn¿t a baseball player, I¿d probably be doing something involved in coaching (baseball). I enjoy the game and would love coaching at any level really, whether it be pro or at a younger level. I just enjoy being outdoors. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.
Tagged: Indians, Tigers, Brewers, Athletics, Dodgers, Pirates

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