Before former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts reports to spring training with his new team, he’ll continue to pull the occasional babysitting duty for his 6-month-old son, Jax, while wife Diana is able to work out or run errands.
Roberts recently signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the division-rival Yankees, taking him away from the organization that selected him in the supplemental round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft.
Got to feel weird, right?
“I think anybody who’s worked in one place for a long time and ends up somewhere else, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s professional sports or something else, it qualifies as different, awkward, weird, scary and everything else at the same time,” he said earlier today during a phone interview. “But also, I think you’re excited about getting a fresh start and excited to see what happens moving forward, as well.”
I’ve been told that the Orioles reached out to Roberts’ agent after the Winter Meetings and never heard back before news broke that he reached agreement with the Yankees. Roberts said today that, to his knowledge, the two sides never had any discussions about his return in 2014.
“I had just a small one-on-one discussion right at the end of the year with somebody, but once it was the last day of the season, I didn’t have any contact with the organization,” he said.
“I don’t think I ever took it personally and I certainly didn’t need a sales pitch by any means. I made it, I thought, pretty clear that the Orioles were my home and that’s where my preference would be to remain if my career continued. That would have been, obviously, in my mind, the ideal situation for us. But at the same time, I knew going into it after the past couple years and finally getting to the point where my contract ran out that leaving was a possibility.
“I don’t think I was ever naive enough to think this was just a formality and I’d be back to finish my career with the Orioles. I knew there was a possibility they may want to go in a different direction and time had kind of run out. And I understood. It’s a business and the organization has to make a decision that’s best for them, and there’s absolutely no hard feelings. I understand 100 percent.”
Roberts never got to play in a postseason game with the Orioles. He was back on the disabled list as they won the wild card game in Texas in 2012 and faced the Yankees in the Division Series.
“I really choose to prefer to look at the positives and not dwell on that aspect as much, because I had so many great times there,” he said. “I have so much to be thankful for and grateful for. Obviously, in an ideal world, sure, I would have loved to be there, to be on the field and active and playing, but I still feel like I experienced a playoff game with the Orioles. I was there and in uniform and I went out on the field. I saw the atmosphere and felt the atmosphere and I was still part of the Orioles team, as far as I know (laughs).
“Obviously, it would have been great to be playing. Nick (Markakis) and I wouldn’t deny that in some ways you don’t feel like you were a part of it, but neither would we think that we didn’t have at least a small part in helping us get there. I choose to look at it in a positive way. The Orioles did make the playoffs at some point when I was there, though I was unable to pick up a bat or put on a glove.”
Roberts drew a negative response from some fans after stating in a YES Network interview that, like many other players, he grew up thinking about playing for the Yankees. The flashbacks to Mark Teixeira’s statements after signing with them were practically blinding.
“That was totally misunderstood,” Roberts said. “That’s the hard part about being in pro sports or the media or whatever. I’m on the radio with, now, my home network, and I think anyone would want their home team players with the Yankees, or someone coming to Baltimore, they’d want their guy excited to be there.
“My point was, I referenced that only because I have pictures of me in a Yankees uniform as a kid in the backyard because one of my Dad’s players (Scott Bradley) played for the Yankees. Some of that got blown way out of proportion. I hope people understand that in the 13-14 years I played in Baltimore, playing for the Yankees never crossed my mind. But certainly as a kid, some people do grow up thinking that’s the biggest stage in baseball - playing Wiffle ball in the back yard and being in the World Series at Yankee Stadium. It was more that kind of a comment. Not that, the whole time I was in Baltimore, I was thinking about how I wanted to play for the Yankees.
“Anybody who knows me knows that’s the furthest thought that would come. Nobody wanted to beat them more than I did. It had nothing do with that. Maybe I worded it wrong or it came out wrong, and I hope my fans in Baltimore didn’t take it the wrong way. It wasn’t my purpose to be hurtful with my comments to the Orioles or the fans or the organization. It was just a pretty innocent comment.”
Roberts will find out whether all is forgiven when the Yankees make their first trip to Camden Yards on July 11. He hadn’t given his return much thought until asked about it.
“I never really envisioned ever playing somewhere else,” he said. “When I signed my four-year contract, the only thing I thought about was what my last game in Baltimore would be like, not my first game in another uniform. It’s going to be different. It’ll be weird to walk past the home locker room. I may have a hard time not walking in the home doors. I think in about 15 years, I’ve only been in the visiting locker room one time.
“It’s going to be very weird to walk out in the stadium with a different uniform on, and obviously, a Yankees uniform brings a flair for the dramatic. But I hope it will be a positive thing. I hope people will understand that I didn’t willingly go out and seek and choose another organization over the Orioles. That’s just the way it played out. I didn’t really have another option. I took what was best for my career moving forward and I still want to play baseball.
“I hope it’s a positive thing where people know I loved every single day that I spent in an Orioles uniform. And I hope they see that I embraced every day that I had.”