Robson On Faster Track For 2015

If they aren’t winding-down entirely, ballplayers may invest off-season hours with peers pitching and catching, in the cage, fielding grounders, the usual stuff. Jacob Robson? His is a different peer-group. “When I go home, I work with track and field sprinters.”

No, not because Robson has ambitions on another athletic career. This Diamond Dog is in a hurry to find a larger place in Mississippi State’s 2015 plans. Based on fall camp and now two pre-season weeks, Robson might indeed be on the fast track to daily duty.

“I think I’m doing pretty well,” Robson said. “I set pretty high goals for myself.”

For their part the Bulldog coaching staff has higher hopes for the sophomore outfielder. In his third spring with State, Robson is making a case to take over an open lineup spot. “I feel good about it,” he said after another good scrimmage showing in the field and on the basepaths.

“We’ve got a lot of talent in the outfield and I’m going to be happy for whoever is in there at any given time. But at the same time I have confidence in myself. This is why I came here.”

Robson has had to wait his turn. And, for graduations to open up room. 2015 sets up nicely with the loss of C.T. Bradford, Demarcus Henderson, and Derrick Armstrong. Robson does have some real experience to call on after 18 games and four starts--three in leffield, the other in center—as a redshirt freshman. Had he been healthy all last season, more was possible.

“Last year was a little different because I was hurt. And two years ago I was pretty young. I feel this is a year for me and a year I can help the team win.”

The most obvious and necessary help needed for 2015 is offense, the glaring weakness of last spring. Robson is still working on the hitting part to be sure…but when he makes contact, the defense must respond fast. Very, very fast.

“A big asset for me is my speed,” said Robson. No kidding. Even on last year’s squad, from which a pretty fair relay team could have been assembled, the Windsor, Ont., native stood out. He just didn’t have many chances to show the speed. But in fall ball and current scrimmages, yeah, the wheels are turning.

Partly, Robson said, thanks to his time spent with those track specialists. But he’s not just a skinny sprinter in baseball gear these days. “I gained a little bit of weight, while maintaining speed. I’m not trying to gain 20 pounds but with the wear and tear of the season you’ve got to have a little weight on you.”

Listed now at 175 officially, he does look a bit stouter. It ought help get the bat around not just quicker but with more impact. Robson has also focused on some mechanical aspects of swinging for 2015.

“I’ve really been working on driving the ball, and driving my back knee ‘down’ to the ball. That helps me stay under the pitches with sink, and a lot of staffs have sinker-ball pitchers. I think I’ve always kept to my regular stance, the big things I work on too is my hands. I feel if my hands are in the right spot then my feet will work with it.”

It surprises none to hear that this left-side batter has also practiced going the other way with his contact, especially on the ground. It doesn’t take many hops for Robson to beat a bag to the base, you know. And yes, the bunt-for-hit is very much part of the repertoire now.

“I think barrel control and bunting is definitely a huge asset for me,” Robson said. “I don’t even have to bunt sometimes, it’s just the thought in the back of the infielder’s head.” Meaning, third basemen and shortstops much choose to stay back and risk Robson dumping one down the line…or playing up and leaving more open angles for a ground-ball single.”

This also offers Robson a shot at batting around the top of the order where bat control adds a dimension. But to get in the batters box he has to also earn a lineup job. Based on scrimmaging so-far, centerfield is Robson’s first shot.

“In high school I was centerfield. And on Team Canada, and the Ontario Blue Jays. And I was drafted primarily as a centerfielder. That’s where I hope to play. But at the same time if they want me to play anywhere else I have no problem with that.”

Just the opposite. At this still-young point of his college career, Robson is ready to seize any opportunity arising in the 2015 season. It’s only a dozen days to the opening, too.

“I’m trying to take it one day at a time. And I can’t wait for the season to start.”

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