When Alex Burnett was drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins, Timmy Robinson was “shocked.”
“He was expecting (to go) in the 20th round but he got moved up to the 12th round,” Robinson recalls. “So it was a good day.”
Robinson is Burnett’s younger half-brother.
As a youngster, Robinson observed what Burnett went through in order to become the relief pitcher he is today for the Twins.
The shock Robinson felt on Draft Day in 2005 wasn’t just because Burnett was taken eight rounds higher than expected, it came from the fact that Burnett didn’t garner much attention in the years and months leading up to the draft. Burnett didn’t start pitching until his senior year in high school. He spent the majority of his high school career under the radar.
Robinson can relate.
He’s a senior outfielder and three-year varsity player for head coach Shane Borowski at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach.
This season, he’s leading the CIF-Southern Section in home runs with 11, while batting .518. Earlier this month he committed to USC and he has a chance to be an early round draft pick in next month’s draft.
Things are looking up for Robinson.
However, the picture wasn’t as clear less than two months ago. Borowski would guess he sent out about 100 tapes or links to a YouTube page he created for Robinson to college coaches around the country — Division I and II. That doesn’t include the follow-up emails he sent or the emails sent by one of his assistant coaches just so that the message could have a different voice for the person that was on the receiving end.
“It was getting ridiculous,” Borowski said. “I was starting to wonder if my word was worth chopped liver or anything.”
Robinson, who also plays football and owns numerous Ocean View football records, was the Golden West League MVP on the football field last fall. If you ask anyone around the Ocean View campus, they’d tell you Robinson was a “lock” to get a football scholarship.
It never matriculated.
While Borowski was trying to get the attention of baseball coaches around the country, Robinson and his brother sent out highlight reels to football coaches across the country.
Both coach and player were 0-fer on the recruiting trail.
Robinson was undeterred.
“I knew eventually something would happen,” he reminded himself.
Entering this season Robinson didn’t have a single scholarship offer, although he’d been in contact with UNLV and even took a visit.
As talks with the school grew, Robinson thought he was set; he’d go to UNLV on a baseball scholarship and during his sophomore year he’d try to join the football team as a walk-on.
That was until he hit a bump in the road. Having exhausted most of their funds, the Runnin’ Rebels were only able to offer a partial scholarship, leaving Robinson to take care of the out-of-state fees — a task not feasible as one of three children from a single-parent home.
He didn’t have a flattering start to the season, but Robinson — the school’s career and season record-holder in home runs — had a week to remember.
On April 5, the Seahawks were playing at Westminster. A major league baseball scout was at the game to see Westminster pitcher Tyler Mahle, who entered the game with a 0.45 ERA.
However, a 4-for-4 outing with three doubles left the scout compelled to give his business card to Robinson’s mother.
Ocean View’s next outing was in the National Baseball Classic, one of the premiere baseball tournaments in the nation. Robinson knew it was a stage for him to make a name for himself.
“That’s pretty much one of the reasons why coach wanted us to play in that (tournament), for me and a couple of other guys to get seen and it worked out,” Robinson said.
He received All-Tournament honors.
“We’re facing pitchers throwing 90 miles per hour every day and Timmy went 6-for-14 with two home runs in that tournament,” Borowski said. “Pretty soon, before you know it, we’re getting major league scouts at every game after that.”
Three weeks later, he committed to USC.
With his college choice determined, his life is now frequented by major league scouts who come to his games as well as in-home visits. National crosscheckers have been at Ocean View games, which heighten Robinson’s chances of being taken higher in the draft.
It’s all turned around for Robinson thanks to his play on the field and also his coach’s persistence in cyberspace.
Borowski knows all too well what it’s like to be overlooked. As a member of a CIF Championship team at El Dorado High School in 1989, Borowski was part of a pitching staff that featured three future pros and another that pitched collegiately. Borowski was neatly tucked in as the fourth pitcher without any attention behind Matt Luke, who played 123 games with the Dodgers, Angels, Indians and Yankees; Pete Janicki, a first-round bust with the Angels; Jay Hasse, who pitched in 26 minor league games after being drafted by the Royals, Angels and Cubs; and Travis DowDell, who collegiately played at BYU.
Doug Deutch, a scout with the Houston Astros, took a liking to him. Deutch helped him get onto a scout team as a junior in high school. Deutch also helped the future Ocean View head coach land a spot in the Cape Cod League and a scholarship to Cal State Los Angeles.
“Someone stuck their neck out for me when I was in high school,” said Borowski, who’s now in his seventh year as the Ocean View head coach. “I just remember how good it made me feel and that’s kind of why I got into coaching because there’s a lot of kids that get unnoticed.
“A guy like Timmy should not be unnoticed.”
Robinson is grateful for his coach believing in him.
“He’s a great guy. He always tries to do extra for us and I really appreciate how he did all that stuff for me for colleges,” Robinson said. “He’s trying to get, pretty much, all of our seniors on some type of baseball team … he just wants to see us play.”
Robinson now has a decision to make.
After his coach worked so hard for his star player to get recognition from college coaches, they may not need them anymore. Depending on where Robinson goes in the draft, he may forego college altogether.
It’s a decision Robinson says he thinks about “every day.”
“I knew eventually it’d happen,” Robinson said. “My mom always tells me something good would happen if you keep on working hard and it happened.”
For a high school senior whose dream is to play in the big leagues and looks up to an older brother who just so happens to play in the big leagues, it’s a good problem to have.