© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts looks like a kid. He's listed at 5-foot-9, but when he's seated, his brown hair drooping down to cover his forehead and painting a picture of his childhood with a playful smile, it's like seeing the tale firsthand.
Roberts holds fond memories of spending countless hours standing in the middle of his street playing long toss with his father, Mike, standing as far apart as they could throw the ball. Other neighborhood families were often outside, and balls were flying everywhere.
Though Roberts has now transformed his backyard hobby into a successful professional career, his father, a life-long baseball coach, left him with fitting advice.
"He always told me to play like you're in the backyard," Roberts said pensively. "Like you're just out there playing Wiffle Ball, having fun. Be aggressive and just always play like you're a kid."
Later in life, Roberts would have the opportunity to play catch with his dad on streets well beyond the realms of his neighborhood in Durham, N.C. After his dad began coaching him in organized leagues at age 13, Roberts proceeded to attend the University of North Carolina, where Mike had already been coaching since 1976.
In Brian Roberts' first year with the Tar Heels, he set school records with a .427 batting average, 102 hits, 24 doubles and 47 stolen bases. He was named national freshman of the year in 1997, and in his sophomore season, led all college players with 63 stolen bases. Roberts was the first Tar Heels player to become ACC Player of the Year and garnered first team All-American honors to boot.
But after the 1998 season, UNC's new athletic director Dick Baddour fired Mike from the managerial position, and Roberts transferred to the University of South Carolina, where he would finish his college career. Roberts said he "still hasn't gotten a real answer" as to why Mike was released, but attributes his college transfer to his father's removal.
Currently, Mike works in the Cape Cod League as the manager of the Cotuit Kettleers and makes it out to Baltimore to see Roberts play four or five times every season. With their hectic schedules, there isn't time for more than a phone call and a present on Father's Day, but Roberts said, whether it be Father's Day or any other day, he owes it all to his dad.
"With him coaching so much when I was younger, he wasn't around all the time like some dads that are home every day at five," Roberts said. "It was his job. So now he gets to watch me do something that I love and that he loves to watch. It's cool to know that I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him, and if I didn't have a dad that taught me as well as he did, I know that I wouldn't be at this point. It's nice to have that relationship."