MadFriars' Interview: Dan Robertson

TUCSON, AZ: In 2008 Dan Robertson, a 33rd round pick of San Diego, loaded up his car and began the long drive from Corvallis, Oregon to Peoria, Arizona to begin his professional career with the Arizona League Padres.

Lucky for Robertson, Jason Kipnis, a fifth round pick out of ASU and now with the Cleveland Indians, had elected not to sign which left the Padres needing an outfielder for their short-season Eugene squad.

Robertson's agent gave him a call and Dan turned around on the highway and reported to the Emeralds where he earned his way into the starting line-up and hit .377/.443/.497.

The word "earned" is always going to be a big part of any description on Robertson, 27, who stand 5'8" and was a late round draft pick. He has been a starter on two championship teams with the Padres in Fort Wayne in 2009 and San Antonio in 2011. He has played all three outfield positions and has a career slash line of .305/.383/.410 in six minor league seasons.

As Tucson hitting coach Tom Torincasa, who has coached Robertson in San Antonio and Fort Wayne, said, "He has a very tight game. Repeatable swing, can play anywhere in the outfield and gives you a solid at-bat every time."

Probably his best fit in the major leagues would be as fourth outfielder, because of his defensive versatility and ability to hit off of the bench.

This season after a very hot April he has slowed down some but is still putting up his typical numbers; .290 batting average,.381 on-base percentage with 45/45 K/BB ratio, 17 stolen bases and playing all over the outfield.

And like most teams that Robertson has played on, the T-Padres are in first place in the Pacific Southern Division of the PCL.

This is the second time in the league for you so you have to feel a lot more comfortable in knowing what to expect.

Dan Robertson: Yeah, I know what to expect on the travel. How early I have to be up and when I have to go to bed. What I can do, what I can't do - when I have to work out.

Although in other ways it is also completely different because I've changed my mindset. I've come to understand what I need to do as a player and what I need to do as a leader. I have been here before and I need to act like it.

One of the biggest jumps I've made is knowing the fields and what to expect and not falling into the trap of "We are playing Colorado Springs, it's cold, this field sucks..."

It can't be that way. Put your nose in the dirt, grind out four or five at-bats and get the win. That is kind of the role that I have taken on this year.

When you talk about leadership, you mean more of leading by example correct?

Dan Robertson: In Murph [Tucson manager Pat Murphy] we have one of the best leaders at the head of our table. For me it's just lead by example, do the things that I need to do. Don't complain because there are other people that are having a tougher time than I am.

I always told myself that I didn't want to repeat a level but here I am blessed with an opportunity to put on a uniform and play. You are only one step away from the big leagues.

My job is to come to the field prepare and play. Results are great but what you have to focus on is if your approach and routines are right, if you are doing everything you can to get better every day.

The travel is so different in AAA because you are taking commercial planes in coach at some odd hours. That has to be a little different than just getting on a bus after the game.

Dan Robertson: I think it's not so much a physical thing but more mental. If you can prove that you can play here they want to see how you can react after getting on a plane a 3 AM.

I'm not the first person to get on a plane at 3 AM and won't be the last. Again, it's about realizing how lucky you are because not everyone gets the opportunity to do this. When it's all done I want to say that I handled it the right way as opposed to someone who didn't.

As with most players you love playing center field because it's where you grew up and you can run.

Dan Robertson: It is but also as I came up through the system playing all three outfield positions it made me comfortable at every position. It was becoming comfortable at doing uncomfortable things that made me better.

For me when watching any sport one of the more exciting things to watch is when athletes suddenly become comfortable at doing uncomfortable things and their talent really begins to shine.

We've talked about coming up to the big leagues about how tough it is because you will be most likely be coming off the bench as opposed to starting - which you have done your whole career.

You may have to sit for three or four games and suddenly face a pitcher in a pinch-hitting role and the numbers that you put up is how you are going to be judged.

Knowing you and how much you value preparation that has to drive you a little crazy because all of your preparation is going to mental.

Dan Robertson: I think you touched it right there, mental. Anyone can say that if I have couple of at-bats under my belt before that I would have gotten a hit..

That is a legitimate point..

Dan Robertson: It is and our managers, coaches and GM know that. They know the position that they are putting you in and they want to see how you will handle it. I know I haven't seen a live pitch in three days and you just have to go with it. Has the work been good enough that you have been putting in.

Every single person is a role player and a puzzle piece and it's your job to perfect that puzzle piece. It's out of your control to where it's going to fit but you need to do the best job you can on what you can control.

That is what I am starting to understand mentally, and you have to understand it mentally because it is a conviction inside of you, that whomever is on the mound that they are no different than anyone I have ever faced. Once you get in the box it's like let's go.

This game is not easy and you have to work every day to perfect your craft because you never know when you are going to get that opportunity. Even if you get out and grind out a nine or ten pitch at-bat and strike out people are still going to notice. They are going to say, ‘That kid came into the fire and he wasn't scarred at all.'

I think if you have that approach you will have success and it is a separator, to have that conviction inside.

The one possible advantage is if you come up you have an idea what is going to be in front of you.

Dan Robertson: [laughs] I really hope so, that is all we can do.

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