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10/01/09 5:12 PM EST
Passionate Roberts will keep grinding
Rookie says chance with D-backs 'a huge blessing'
By Rick Eymer / Special to MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- One day he's climbing the fences in a vain attempt to bring a home run back in play, the next day he's running the bases with reckless abandon. Ryan Roberts may not have the best judgment in the world, but he's a guy any manager would gladly take on a team. You get a lot of good, sprinkled with a handful of bad. The payoff is a passionate player with an edge and a guy who will do anything and everything to help a team win. "I haven't changed much," said the 29-year-old rookie. "Wherever and whatever, I take the same approach. I grind. I made a promise to myself that if I ever did make it, I was going to keep pushing." A baserunning blunder Wednesday night cost the Arizona Diamondbacks a chance to rally against the Giants. That's tempered by his all-out play in left field Tuesday night, when he refused to give up on either home run that landed in the left-field seats. One landed halfway up the bleachers, the other just out of reach. After the game, he was upset for not catching the second one. Having his home run turned into a double following a replay didn't matter nearly as much. "He has a nose for the ball," D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's athletic, knows how to position himself and he's fearless when it comes to the fence. There's an edge to him I like." It's the kind of edge you can see in his eyes, like looking into a whirlpool of passion, intensity and determination. He played seven positions in seven Minor League seasons, all except right field and pitcher. He spent many of those early years riding long hours on the bus, away from family and friends and trying to survive on minimum pay. "A lot weighs on you," he said of his time in the Minors. "I don't know how many times I thought about my family, my friends. Most of my friends were making significantly more money than I was early on." After brief, unsuccessful forays into the Majors in each of the previous three seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers, he was granted free agency and signed with the D-backs. It could have been his final chance. "I take it as a huge blessing," Roberts said. "I'd been to three Spring Trainings before. I had worked hard in the offseason and it wasn't until the final Spring Training game when they called me into the office that I found out. I knew it was between me and a couple other people. The last three innings of that game were the longest I'd ever experienced." He's not going to change a thing about his offseason routine this time around, either. "I'll take a few days off from baseball but not my conditioning," Roberts said. "I've got the whole thing set up. I start lifting weights right away."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.