CLEVELAND – The number 99 was scripted in pink below the name R0BERTS0N (yes, two zeroes) on a newly labeled locker in the Indians clubhouse on Sunday.
The 5-foot-8 figure of Daniel Robertson was not only primed for his Tribe debut, but also ready to make history as the first player in the franchise to wear the highest double-digit number.
No, Rick Vaughn does not qualify for such an accomplishment.
The 31-year-old journeyman has played his fair share of baseball – two college teams, 12 minor league teams and four major league teams.
Robertson has Oregon State listed as his alma mater, a Division I school that happens to be ranked number one in the nation with a 38-4 record this season. He also attended Concordia University Irvine, a NAIA school that is comparable to the level of Division II competition.
The former 33rd round pick's time with the Eagles is remembered with the numeration on his back.
“I played at Concordia University before I transferred to Oregon State,” said Robertson. “We had to wear ugly like mustard yellow pullovers at our school. We all had the same jerseys. They said ‘Eagles’ on the front and ‘99’ on the back. All of us had the same jersey.”
As the first Concordia player to log action at the game’s highest level, Robertson hopes to make his mark with the defending American League champions and carry his former team’s legacy to the grassy outfield on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
“The message behind it was, all that energy that happens in the ninth inning, in the stadium, in the dugouts, whatever, channel that for nine innings and play that with that kind of energy from the first pitch,” Robertson said. “I just kind of adopted that.”
After signing with the team on a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training, Robertson decided to educate himself of the fictional history and humorous story behind the number.
“Me and my wife, we watched Major League this offseason to freshen up on Cleveland history, even though it’s fictional,” said Robertson. “When I saw [Vaughn] wearing No. 99, we talked about, ‘Hey, do I get the haircut?’ And she just looked at me like, ‘No. You just go out there and play.’”
Robertson has done just that by slashing .328/.397/.475 in the Cactus League before suffering a strained left hamstring toward the latter-half of the preseason slate. He went 7-for-15 in four appearances at Triple-A Columbus this past week and appears to be healthier than ever.
“A kid that did really well this spring, pulled the hammy at the end of spring, came back not long ago but has been real hot,” manager Terry Francona said. “He brings energy, something I think that can help us right now.”
From the mustard yellow of Concordia to the flushed pink of the Indians, the stitching of the number 99 still reflects the everyday play of Daniel Robertson.