Around the Bases with Matt Roberts

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- Freshman catcher Matt Roberts made the first start of his career on Tuesday.

Head coach Mike Fox was satisfied with the freshman's performance.

"I thought that we needed to get him in there and get him some at bats," Fox said. "He got his first two hits as a Carolina Tar Heel tonight so that is what I am going to focus on during my ride home: Matt Roberts got two hits.

"I am proud of him and he did a good job behind the plate. Tough kid and blocked some really tough balls in the dirt tonight and I am glad we could get him in there and get him a start and maybe it helped Jacob [Stallings] a little bit to get him some time off from back there."

Inside Carolina caught up with Roberts after the game ...

When did you find out you were starting?
"Right when we were about to start batting practice. Normally I head down to catch the mid-week bullpens and they told me to come down to work on some stuff and get ready for the game."

Did you get a chance to tell your parents that you were starting your first game behind the plate?
"No, I wanted to surprise him and catch them off guard."

What was it like getting the first significant injury in your baseball career right at the beginning of your freshman season?
"It was really one of my first major injuries. It was difficult to cope with for a little bit. Once I started to get the brace off the hand started to get a little better and I was able to do a little bit more but I would feel like I would re-injure it and it would start to hurt. It is at the point now where it is 99-100 percent and it feels great."

What was more difficult with having your glove hand injured - catching or batting?
"Hitting was definitely worse. Being my bottom hand it was my anchor, but for catching Mike Cavasinni had two Evo-Shields prepared for me to put in my glove to help with the pain. He came in and looked at my hand and got some Evo-Shield material, formed it to the backside of my hand so it covered my fracture point so I would put that on and form it and slide it into my glove and it would take all of the pressure away from when I caught so I did not feel any pain while catching."

What have you learned watching Jacob Stallings excel behind the plate defensively and throwing out a high percentage of base runners?
"That dude is a phenomenal catcher. He has a hose for an arm. He is a great backstop and it is nice to have an older guy to learn from. Me and him have talked and he said he had similar problems when he broke his hand [also as a freshman two years ago at UNC]. We talk about that. He is a great guy to be around. I really enjoy having him [as a mentor]."

How do you feel about getting back into the swing of things for the second half of the season and helping Stallings take some games off?
"It is big getting him some rest. I mean I feel great behind the plate and we will see how it goes."

Can you discuss the depth of pitching on the Diamond Heels roster from your perspective as a freshman catcher?
"We might have the deepest staff in the country. Over half of the team is pitchers. I love going down and catching bullpens and getting accustomed to everybody so in a game situation you don't get fooled by anything. Our depth is going to be our riding horse. With that kind of depth if someone struggles we will be able to run somebody else out there and that is going to help us."

What has it been like working with Coach Forbes calling the pitches in a game?
"It is different. In the scrimmages in the fall everybody was kind of relaxed and everything. But during the game it is intense and you have to get it right or otherwise you might mess up the entire plan about a pitch sequence."

During the fall you had a chance to work at some other positions, have you worked anywhere else during practice during the regular season?
"I take a few ground balls at first base during batting practice but pretty much right now I am a catcher and a designated hitter."

What do you think about seeing a fellow freshman jump out to a National Player of the Week performance in Colin Moran starting at third base and leading the ACC in runs batted in?
"That dude is unbelievable and he is probably the most humble person about it. He has all the accolades and he is dropping bombs and the dude is just quiet as can be. He takes his hits and moves on and forgets about it. That is the best thing you can ask for from a guy."

Can you discuss what it has been like working with Coach Jackson on your swing?
"He has helped me a lot. When I came in I tended to pull off the ball a little bit and he and I worked in the cage a lot moving my hands and moving my shoulder. Basically he gave me the swing that I have now versus being completely different in the fall. It is really nice and I feel that my hands are faster and he really knows what he is talking about."

How comfortable are you now after getting a slow start coming back from your injury heading down the stretch?
"Extremely comfortable. My first couple at bats I was a little shaky and did not have my timing down. But since the two at bats against Clemson and tonight I feel like I am seeing the ball really well."

Can you talk about how the seniors have emphasized winning these mid-week games especially after the Charlotte game loss?
"It is extremely important because that is what might get you into the post-season, beating a team you are supposed to beat. If you come in and play down that makes you look bad. We don't want to look bad."

How have the older players prepared you for the environment to expect heading into a weekend series against the Atlantic Division-leading Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee?
"They say it is a crazy place. The word on Facebook is that Saturday before the game they are going to have a Wiffle Ball and Tequila pre-game tailgate party and their fans will probably be ready to start talking some trash to us after that."


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