Lynchburg’s Jared Robinson Dreaming of a Major League Future

Jared Robinson is a Carolina League veteran. A member of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats for all or part of the past three seasons, he understands the challenge and demands of professional baseball. With experience comes established success and a chance to climb the organizational ladder towards the Major Leagues.

Hailing from West Covina, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher is a southern California native. Robinson’s interest in baseball began when he was very young, watching his older brothers play.

“I liked watching their games,” he said. “I think that’s where it all started, visualizing being out on the field in front of all the fans.”

At the time, he was too young to play on the same teams with his brothers, but he pursued and enjoyed baseball at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente, California, a school with many alum’s in the professional baseball ranks, notably Dan Haren, a second round draft pick of the Cardinals in 2001.

While no teams showed draft interest in Robinson during high school, he decided to attend Cerritos College, a junior college in Norwalk, California, in the Los Angeles area. There, he took steps that led him to professional baseball.

“I thought it was going to be a bump in the road for me,” said Robinson about his college experience. “It improved me a lot. The coaching staff that was there really shaped and molded you as a man.”

For Robinson, one advantage of junior college would be that he only had to stay a single season and could enter the draft. The way that the rules are structured, if he attended a four-year college, he would not be eligible for the draft until after his junior year.

“It turned out to be a faster route,” Robinson said about his time at Cerritos. “I decided to stay one more year and see what happens and it worked out pretty well for me.”

In college, Robinson was primarily a starting pitcher, but on off days, when he was not scheduled to start, he might play in the outfield or serve as the team’s closer. For his junior college career, he had 229 at-bats over two seasons, posting a .279 batting average and driving in 37 runs.

On the mound, he made 26 starts for the Falcons, 13 in each of the two seasons he played at Cerritos. His 10-4 record, and a 2.23 ERA in his second season, got him attention from Major League organizations.

The next step for Robinson was the draft. Informed that he was slated to go somewhere between the fifth and tenth rounds, he waited anxiously to see his name called on the second day of the draft.

“After day two was done I was a bit disappointed, I thought ‘I’m not going to get drafted’,” recalled Robinson. “I was walking around, talking to my dad and one of my relatives who had come over and my brother yells out, ‘You’ve just been drafted by the Cleveland Indians!”

At first, Robinson did not believe his brother. He thought it was a joke, thinking his brother was messing around with him. Then he saw his name on the laptop screen.

“I’m like, I don’t know anybody else from California with the same name, so it has to be me. I was just stuck in that moment thinking, is this real or am I day dreaming.” shared Robinson.

He wasn’t dreaming. The Indians had selected him in the eleventh round of the 2014 draft. Before the end of the summer, he would be wearing a baseball uniform and pitching for the Cleveland entry in the rookie level Arizona League.

Over the next four years, he would move back and forth in his pitching role, some years primarily a starter, like his 2015 season where he started 14 games for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Alternately, in 2017, he only started four games, but pitched in 31 games out of the Hillcats bullpen to help them to the Carolina League Championship.

“My velocity in later innings started veering away from what is should have been,” said Robinson about his full time move to the bullpen. “The Cleveland organization is very respectful, open minded, they really understand their players, and we decided that was what’s going to work best for me.”

In 24 games this season, all in relief, he has posted a 4-3 record, striking out 48 in 42 1/3 innings pitched.

“He just needs to continue doing what he is doing right now,” said Lynchburg’s manager Rougie Odor. “He’s pounding the strike zone with all his pitches and having consistency.”

That consistency got him a short promotion to AA where he tossed two innings for the Akron RubberDucks against the Bowie Baysox. Though he gave up a run on three hits, it was the strikeout he tallied that made the experience valuable and memorable.

“I got to face Austin Hays, who was tearing it up in the Carolina League last year,” said Robinson. “Facing him I knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, I had to come with my best stuff.”

In 2017, Hays demolished the Carolina League, hitting 16 home runs, with a .956 OPS in 262 at-bats before a promotion to AA and then a 20-game cameo with the Baltimore Orioles at the end of the season.

“In four pitches, I struck him out. I was like, OK, I can hang up here,” Robinson said about sitting down the Orioles number one ranked prospect.

What matters most to Robinson is the camaraderie and friendships he has built through baseball.

“The fun part about playing baseball is meeting new people, learning their backgrounds, where they come from,” said Robinson. “I love staying close with my family, talking to my wife or my son back home in California.”

Maintaining consistency on the mound will produce the next step in his career, a permanent promotion to AA Akron, as he pursues his dream of pitching in ballparks packed with fans.

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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