Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson never lost his love for the Orioles. He’s now been given more avenues to show it.
The Orioles have hired Robinson, 81, as a special advisor to the team, bringing him back to Camden Yards and in the community.
Robinson walked into the press box and announced that he won’t be playing or managing. He won’t be offering baseball advice, the game becoming too complicated with its analytics and new rules. But he’s prepared to do whatever is asked to promote the team.
Fans will be able to find the 16-time Gold Glove winner at the ballpark and around town, and perhaps at the spring training facility in Sarasota. There will be a gradual unfolding of responsibilities and scheduled appearances.
“I’ll be trying to get out in the community and doing some things to promote this club and get people to the stadium,” said Robinson, who met with executive vice president John Angelos and agreed to his new role. “It’s a beautiful ballpark and the Orioles have always been trying to get people in, and been in the community and doing things.
“I don’t know really what my job’s going to be. I talked to John Angelos about three weeks ago, we had lunch, and I said, ‘I’ll do anything, but I don’t want to have to make any decisions about baseball. That’s passed me by, if you want to know the truth.”
Robinson will find out later how often he’s going to be around the team. Manager Buck Showalter always has encouraged more visits and invited Robinson to speak before playoff games and at spring training.
“I don’t have any set schedule for that,” said Robinson, who retired from playing in 1977 after a 23-year career and later served as a television analyst on the team’s broadcasts.
“If the Orioles want me to do something, I’ll come down and do it. Don’t care about going out on the field much. It will be a lot of things. They’ve been out in the community for a long time and I’ll try to help them there. I might go to spring training, I might do a fantasy camp, I might do the big session they have here with the players in January. So, that’s really my job, I guess.”
There were whispers in past years of Robinson getting back into the organization, but it never came to fruition, partly due to his other endeavors and frequent trips outside of Maryland. So, why now?
“Well, just because they asked me, more than anything else,” said Robinson, who’s seated beside Angelos at tonight’s game and received a prolonged ovation when shown on the video board. “I mean, I had plenty to do. I’m part owner of the York Revolution team in the Atlantic League and I’m President of the Major League Baseball Alumni Association. I get involved with some of their projects. But I got a call from John Angelos and he said, ‘Let’s talk,’ so I went to talk to him and worked things out, and I’ll see how it goes. It’s not set in steel how many years I’m going to be here, but I’ll see what I can do.
“I wouldn’t be going anyplace (else). I came here in 1955. I got married in ‘60 and we’ve been living here ever since. I’m not going anywhere. It’s good, it’s fun. I look forward to getting out in the community and doing some things.”
Robinson’s health is allowing it following his battle with prostate cancer about nine years ago, and the discovery of a tumor on his pancreas that had to be surgically removed due to its rapid growth. The procedure, Robinson said, had him trying to catch up on everything “eight or nine months later, that’s how bad it was.”
“I’m doing fine now,” he said. “I like to sit down when I can, but I’m doing good.”
Robinson played in four World Series with the Orioles and grew accustomed to winning. He’s remained a fan over the years, of course, which makes the current season especially painful for him.
“It’s been pretty difficult,” he said. “I always think back to the year (1988) when they lost 21 in a row. I was doing television then and I was part of that 21 in a row, and it’s really strange. I’ll tell you, every game they lost, there would be a certain point in the game where I’d say, ‘This is it,’ and sure enough it was it, whether it be walk a guy or make an error. It was a crazy situation how that team could lose. They had (Eddie) Murray and (Cal) Ripken. I don’t know how you could lose 21 in a row.
“But I can’t figure this all out. I guess the big thing, in this ballpark you’ve got to score runs, and we just don’t hit. Especially with men on base.”
Also difficult for Robinson is knowing that a star player such as Manny Machado in this market can’t stay on the payroll and must be traded or lost in free agency. Robinson spent his entire career with the Orioles. It’s a troubling sign of the times.
“That’s a little tough, but that’s the name of the game,” he said. “I reached free agency, when they started free agency, about the year that it came in. I was tied to this team forever unless they traded me or said, ‘Well, you can go,’ and that never happened.
“I mean, I’m happy to see guys get a chance to play somewhere else if they’re not wanted in a certain city, but Manny, I think he’s done a terrific job with the circumstances like they are, and knowing that he’s probably going to be going, and we’ll see what happens. But it’s a little difficult.
“I got to know Manny. I presented him with two Gold Gloves at the Rawlings dinner in New York and I speak to him quite a bit if I come down to the ballpark. It’s got to be tough on everyone. I think what’s tougher is waiting to see what happens with all the guys. And it looks like we’ve just got to have a rebuild. Looking at the couple of teams that did that over the last couple of years, they get better.”
The Orioles are playing better tonight after Yefry Ramírez gave them five scoreless innings, allowing only two hits, walking three batters and striking out seven. But Martin Pérez is blanking the Orioles on three hits.
Ramirez threw 94 pitches, 55 for strikes, in his fourth major league start and fifth appearance.