Roberts savors his Classic experience
Orioles second baseman finally back and ready to go to work
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- If not for a cold picked up in Los Angeles, Brian Roberts would have nothing but positive things to say about his experience in the World Baseball Classic. As it is, Roberts was thrilled with the baseball aspects of the tournament, but a tad regretful that he's been laid up and ill for the last few days.
"I started getting it the day we got to L.A.," said Roberts, who batted .438 with six runs in four games for Team USA in the Classic. "It made L.A. a little bit of a struggle. A lot of guys on the team had it at some point. I had a feeling I'd probably catch it. But anytime you don't feel good, it's just not as fun. I still had a blast."
Roberts returned to his team Tuesday but has been unable to play the last few days because of his illness, a malady that has kept Baltimore's starting lineup from playing together and preparing for the regular season. Still, the second baseman expects to play Friday and said he got a lot out of his Classic experience.
"My first All-Star experience was pretty awesome, but this was kind of [like] that times 10 days because it was like that but you got to do it every day," he said. "And you actually got to know the guys and you got to spend time with them. Plus, you really are competing as a team. In the All-Star Game, you're competing as a team and you do want to win, but it's not like the end-all, be-all. There's just so many variables to the All-Star Game."
That point is well taken. The All-Star Game is a celebration of the Major League season, while the Classic is played for national pride once every three years. And while it's an honor to be selected for either team, Roberts said that the World Baseball Classic is played at a much different type of intensity level.
"I haven't played in September or October games that mattered," said Roberts, who has never played on a winning team in the Majors. "I wanted to see how I would do in a situation that was win or go home. ... To do that and have it at the time of Spring Training was a little different than you would have in September or October when you feel like you're in the middle of playing a lot. But I thought that was as helpful to me as anything."
"He played meaningful games in March," added manager Dave Trembley. "So did Melvin [Mora]. [Hitting coach Terry Crowley] talked to Melvin and asked Melvin what it was all about for him. Melvin thought it was like playing in the World Series [with] the excitement, the competition, the buzz in the dugout and on the field. The pressure. It can only benefit those guys. Unique, great, once in a lifetime thing. I'm glad they did it."
Roberts said that part of the experience meant sharing a batting practice group with Jimmy Rollins, Derek Jeter and Mark DeRosa and watching how they go about their business. And he also said that he got to know his teammates as people, giving him more of an appreciation for men he'd normally consider rivals.
The Orioles also lost Jeremy Guthrie to Team USA and Mora and Cesar Izturis to Venezuela, meaning that they haven't seen their team intact since the last week of February. And even if they haven't played together, Roberts can't help but feel that his game will be better served by having playing the Classic.
"I think sometimes here -- especially early on in Spring Training -- you kind of go through the motions," he said. "It's just hard to take it too seriously because if you don't get a hit, it's not the end of the world. You're trying to have good at-bats [and] you're trying to accomplish things, but the adrenaline's not necessarily always there. The focus and concentration level may not always be the same. For me, it was great to kick it into gear."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.