Mudcats’ Roberts Chose College Over Boyhood Team
Rob McLamb | On 28, May 2014
Growing up near San Francisco and an avid Giants fan, James Roberts was presented with a unique opportunity coming out of high school. When his boyhood team selected him in the MLB Draft, he had to make a tough choice.
“I was drafted out of high school by the Giants, but I chose to attend USC,” Roberts said. “It was tough [to turn down]; they brought me to their stadium, the whole deal. I traveled to San Francisco games, we live about 45 minutes south of there, and I went to San Jose—the high-A team for the Giants—to watch some games too.”
Ultimately, Roberts decided against signing with his favorite team and chose to attend college down the California coast at USC. It was the chance to play top-tier competition that appealed most to him.
[The Giants] made a strong play but I chose to go to college,” Roberts recalled. “Pretty much every team in [the PAC-12] is good so that is why I wanted to go [to USC]. It is a great school and there is great competition all around. Anyone can beat anyone.”
After three years with the Trojans, Roberts was ready to make the move to professional ball. When Cleveland came calling in the 15th round of the 2013 draft, the infielder was overjoyed and could also breathe easier knowing he had made the right decision.
“It was great; it was a relief. That’s for sure,” Roberts said. “I had plans to sign after my junior year and once I got that out of the way I could focus on my career, long-term.”
“I love it here,” Roberts added. “I love all the staff and the players. I get along with them very well. I definitely feel like I am getting better on a daily basis. The coaching staff helps me out a lot. When I am struggling they are helping me; when I am doing well they are helping me. Communicating with them is really easy.”
Interestingly, growing up a San Francisco fan did not give Roberts much of a reason to follow Cleveland. His favorite player, however, was a shortstop familiar to Tribe supporters.
“I liked Omar Vizquel” Roberts said. “When he was with the Giants he was my favorite player. I also tried to model my game after Troy Tulowitzki. He is from my area. He is someone I tried to base my game off of.”
Roberts enters Wednesday’s action batting .302 for the season, including a .345 average in his last 10 games. Adjusting to the rigors of the Carolina League in his first season with the Carolina Mudcats has been an experience he has enjoyed.
“I like the Carolina League,” Roberts said. “It is fun. There are only eight teams in the league so we see a lot of the same teams quite a bit of times. It is a chess match. They are adjusting to me and I am adjusting to them. I like the thinking part of the game.”
Attending college was a crucial part of the development in his game according to Roberts. The Mudcats’ coaching staff has liked what they have seen.
“This league is a separator,” Carolina hitting coach Tony Mansolino said. “He has done well. You see teams 20 times. After the first series, they know how to pitch you and they are going to pick out their holes. He is hitting for average and doing great things”
“Whenever you see a shortstop transition to third base, it is tough,” Mansolino added. “It is not an easy transition. The first year A-Rod did it he struggled. Then he won a Gold Glove, so it takes time. James is doing well. We are happy with his progress.”
Roberts is taking a methodical approach to his development. According to the Northern California-native, his improvement will come with sticking to the game plan that saw him forego a chance to sign with San Francisco and ultimately landed him in the Cleveland organization.
“I am sticking to the process,” Roberts said. “I was going through a slight slump a few weeks ago. As the coaching staff said, you have learn how to fail and respond to that. It is part of the process. That is what I am focusing on right now. I am pretty satisfied.”
“I have not been around [the Cleveland organization] long, so I don’t know what it was like before last season. You can definitely feel a sense of pride with them making the playoffs last year. There is a feeling of a good, successful future and there is something to build off of. All of the teams in the organization are building off of that. It sets an example for us and makes us strive to get better.”