David Robertson Is Accomplished

Three years ago, David Robertson had never pitched in Yankee Stadium, been a guest at the White House, or the subject of adoration in a Manhattan ticker tape parade. At the age of 26, he has accomplished all three, creating memories for a lifetime.

In July David Robertson of the New York Yankees joined Alex Avila, former 2006 Alabama teammate and presently the Detroit Tigers catcher, on the American League roster for the Major League Baseball All-Star Classic. Robertson was a last second addition - tall cotton for the former Crimson Tide baseball hurler selected in the 17th round of the 2006 MLB amateur draft. Rave reviews are trumpeted by all witnesses to Robertson's season thus far. Management, teammates, reporters, opposing players, and coaches are impressed.

Operating in a city known to ravage heralded prospects for non-performance, Robertson has the amnesia of an NFL cornerback and NBA three-point shooting sixth man combined. Teflon has nothing on him. He is reincarnated after any major disappointment, unscathed by the setback. On a Saturday night in July the Bronx Bombers scored a franchise record twelve runs in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles. The superb relief talents of Robertson were not required. Nonetheless, praise for his exploits gushed from the lips of everyone.

Yankees teammate Derek Jeter said, "He's done a great job. He's been very, very consistent for us and he's really been able to bridge that gap to Mariano (Rivera). He's a big reason why we're in the position we're in right now because of his consistency throughout the year."

The pinstripe captain touched on an intangible contributing to Robertson's prosperity. "Probably a little bit of confidence," Jeter said. "He's had some success. I think the more you are in different situations, the more confidence that you have and he seems to have a lot of confidence right now."

Kimberly Jones, New York Yankees clubhouse reporter for the YES Network, chimed in with superlatives. Jones said, "I think now you watch David Robertson and he is so confident. His confidence is off the charts. He knows he can do this job. He knows he can get out any hitter usually with a strikeout."

Robertson has whiffed batters with regularity leading American League relievers with 65 strikeouts to his credit.

The reserved Robertson has carved out a reputation for excellence. Jones said, "He has developed into a really terrific pitcher. The Yankees don't know where they would be without him this season."

She said two early milestones in Robertson's three-year Major League tenure elevated his self-assurance meter. "The World Series obviously gave a lot of these young guys confidence – just a terrific achievement so early in their careers," she said. "Being an American League All-Star meant a lot to David."

Jones has a sports pedigree, including being a Penn State graduate. She also is a colleague of former Alabama and New York Giants tight end Howard Cross on "This Week in Football," which airs on the YES Network in the fall.

Underlying the cool breeze demeanor is a fierce competitor. "I can't stand to lose," said a serious Robertson. Dubbed "Houdini" by fellow reliever Joba Chamberlain, Robertson has faced 41 batters in his career with bases loaded. Twenty have been retired to the pine with a strike out. A pumped fist occasionally punctuates the moment if runners are stranded on base.

"He's the ‘Magic Man'," Jones said. "He gets into trouble, out of trouble and wiggles out of any jam. His teammates are really in awe of what he does."

A rash of injuries suffered by Rafael Soriano and Chamberlain thrust the mid-reliever into the set-up position. He has embraced the role and relished the opportunity to perform in the limelight under intense media scrutiny.

An all-time revered New York Yankee late-inning savior believes Robertson possesses the repertoire of pitches to be "the Man" in the bullpen. Jones said, "Mariano Rivera will tell you this guy could be a closer someday. His curve ball is tremendous. His fastball, they'll tell you its sneaky fast. Might not look fast on the radar gun but it comes across faster than that 92 or 93 mph."

A study published in an April issue of Sports Illustrated documents the "hops" in Robertson's pitch. An extra long stride off the mound places the release point closer to home plate accounting for the deceptive fast ball thrown by the less than physically imposing 5-11, 195-pound relief pitcher.

Teammates have become accustomed to Robertson delivering with each successive appearance. "He is like the silent assassin," said Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. "He goes about his business. He does it the Alabama way."

Swisher is a former Ohio State Buckeye.

Swisher said, "This year has been a real break-through in the league for him to go to the all-star game and to be pitching the way he has. I couldn't be more proud of everything he has accomplished this year because I know he puts in the hard work and it's nice to see he is getting some recognition and receiving all the accolades."

Swisher and his wife, actress Joanna Garcia, are occasional dinner companions with the Robertsons. "People will recognize him and he will say, ‘Don't say anything'," said close friend Swisher amused by the publicity shy budding star. "He's just a quiet guy. David and his wife Erin are an amazing couple that stand for the right things."

Robertson has sparkled statistically. As of Saturday, his ERA of 1.54, tied at fourth in the AL, was less than half of last year's 3.82. The 65 strikeouts in only 44 appearances has almost equaled the 2010 season total of 71 registered in 64 games. Like real estate, location has contributed to the superior numbers.

"Nothing has really changed," Robertson said. "I'm still throwing the same pitches. I have a little better command of them and a harder velocity. So instead of being a 91, 92, I'm a 94 to 96 mph guy so it helps out a lot."

A change up developed over the years has been used with more frequency and effectiveness especially against left-hand batters. Goals prior to the season have been met. "Just come in and put up good numbers and really just to help us win ball games," he said. "That's all I really wanted to do. Anything that happens after that I can add to the resume."

Robertson loves parades. After the New York Yankees captured their 27th record setting World Championship, he was part of the commemorative procession of a lifetime every young baseball player dreams. He said, "The Canyon of Heroes is unbelievable. Millions of people showed up to celebrate and throw paper. It was a really good experience and, hopefully I'll get to do it again."

The young man from Alabama is not overwhelmed by the achievements. "To tell you the truth, they are all things I have worked hard to do," Robertson said. "I've tried as hard as I can to get here and I'm going to keep working hard so that I can get to these levels, keep climbing the ladder to get where I'm supposed to be."

Life turned upside down for Robertson on a fateful day in April. Tornados devastated his home town of Tuscaloosa causing unfathomable tragic scenarios for thousands. Separated by distance only, he and wife Erin empathized with the victims. They took action by creating the charitable foundation "High Socks for Hope" to fund the relief efforts. Robertson has pledged $100 for every strike out recorded in the 2011 season.

"We are continuing to put on events here in New York and trying to raise as much money as possible," he said. "My wife and I are working pretty much everyday when we are not here at the field getting something done or setting it up for upcoming events – emailing non-stop," he said. "She (Erin) has been like the worker-bee when I'm here at the field. We've got some great publicity through the Yankees and we're really starting to raise some funds. Hopefully we can help out down there in Tuscaloosa."

The New York Yankees organization donated $250,000 each to the American Red Cross and Salvation Army to rebuild the communities affected in Alabama and the South.

Robertson has ascended through the ranks since the June 29, 2008 MLB debut. Progress can be measured in many ways but one significant voice amidst the chorus of admiration registered the High C of praise. "He's been tremendous.," said Yankees Manager Joe Girardi. "The confidence level is extremely high. I feel great about bringing Robbie in for any situation whether the bases are loaded or nobody's out." Prior efforts spent toiling in the New York Yankee system has proved to be beneficial. "He's had some pretty good years for us. I just think he's matured."

He may initially have been thought of by fans, media and baseball personnel as just "that guy from Alabama" but the narrative has expanded. Recognized as a major contributor to a legendary franchise seeking their 28th World Series Championship, 2011 American League All-Star David Robertson has stylishly arrived on the scene with subsequent chapters of memories to be written.

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