Padres Prospect Interview: Dan Robertson

FORT WAYNE, IN: Last year, Dan Robertson, 23, was the Madfriars Player of the Year, hitting .377/.443/.497 for the Eugene Emeralds, which is even a bigger accomplishment considering that he wasn't even selected until the 33rd-round of the 2008 draft.

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound outfielder has always had to prove that he could play despite putting up superlative statistics wherever he has played. After spending his first three years at NAIA school Concordia University in Irvine, California, Robertson transferred to Oregon State for his final year, hitting .327/.419/.429 and finishing third on the team in total bases and doubles.

Defensively, he posses a very strong arm, good speed and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He got off to a tough start in April in the Midwest League, hitting .204/.295/.315, before turning it around.

You got off to a bit of a slow start this year and as a very outgoing player on the field and in the clubhouse. How did that affect you?

Dan Robertson: Not too much. You play a game that is based on failure, and you are going to fail sometimes more than others. Early in the year, I was tinkering with a lot of things and just didn't feel comfortable. I think I was a little too results oriented and because I wasn't getting hits, tried to do too much. I calmed down, but my personality is something that never really changes based on what I do on the field. It's just a game and I try the best I can. That is all you can do.

You were our player of the year last year, so what were you tinkering with? You had a pretty good year?

Dan Robertson: Yeah, that was nice [laughs]. I don't know, it was my first off-season and wasn't used to some of the things that I had to get myself ready for. I may have wanted to drive the ball a little more and started to think I could do more than I should. I think a big part of the turnaround has been realizing the player that I am.

Following that up, your strength is getting on base and hitting the ball into the gaps. How do you balance that out while still trying to improve?

Dan Robertson: I think you really just try to be the player you are supposed to be, not someone else. When you look back at what you did in the past, you see where you would like to improve and work on that part of your game. I was having fun everyday, getting paid to play a game since I've been playing since I was a kid; you really have to remember how lucky you are. If it becomes work, you start to lose focus and can lose the relaxation that you have at the plate and in the field, which enables you to play your best.

What was the big thing that helped to turn around your season? Is it something that just clicks?

Dan Robertson: You know actually it is. If you put in the preparation in the cage, on the field and with the hitting coach, it may not happen right away, but it will. When I was straddling the Mendoza line, I may have thought I was never going to get above .200, but if you are straightforward in your approach and the understanding that the preparation I'm doing now and my whole life, it is going to come around as long as I stay steady. It was just a part of learning and maybe after the season I had last year part of me thought that I had it all figured out when I really didn't. I can't give enough kudos to my hitting coach Tom Tornicasa who really taught me how to approach an at-bat and the things that I needed to be aware off.

I just watched you in the cage and you seem that you have a pretty disciplined approach. You use a few different bats, for one round you focus on going up the middle, the next one to the opposite field and the final one is where you let loose a bit. Also, you don't have a whole lot of things going on in your swing.

Dan Robertson: I guess it was just the way I was brought up, grip the bat, see it and hit it. You have enough things to worry about in there without making it overly complicated. With the bats, it's just a question of feeling loose. The bats don't have any significance, other than working my way down to the bat that I am going to use for the game.

You are not the biggest guy in world, but you do hit quite a few doubles. Where does the power come from?

Dan Robertson: I think its just with staying with that approach. You want to backspin balls and every now and then I'm going to run into a good swing and it is going to leave. Everyone loves home runs, but everyone, including Albert Pujols, will tell you that they are not a "home run" hitter regardless of how many they hit. He's the same type of hitter who just wants to put a good swing on the ball. If I can stay focused on driving balls into the gap, I can hit a few too, although probably not as many as Albert [laughs].

What is the one specific thing you need to improve upon to get to the next level?

Dan Robertson: Being able to understand how mentally tough you need to be to survive the amount of games that we play. Everyone preaches about this game, but after awhile you realize that so many guys can do so many things that major league players can, just not on a consistent basis. To me, I think the big difference is that they have it all figured out upstairs. Their approach to the game for 162 games is just unmatched. The game is built on failure and you have to be able to learn and build upon your failures to succeed. If you can do that, with 100-percent percent maximum effort, I think you are going to be a pretty good ball player.

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