08/02/11 1:44 AM ET
New acquisition Robinson enjoys path traveled
By Taylor Soper / MLB.com
"You are not going to play football," head coach Andre Green told the then-sophomore.
But Robinson, the Mariners' newly acquired center fielder who came over from the Dodgers in the Erik Bedard deal, wanted to play football for the pigskin powerhouse Crenshaw High Cougars of South Los Angeles.
"In high school, I don't know, the popular people were the football players," Robinson said at Triple-A Tacoma's Cheney Stadium on Monday. "I didn't want to be the popular guy, but I played football when I was younger and I just wanted to have two sports.
"But I'm not going to argue. I'll just get the glove and go out there."
Turns out coach knows best. Robinson, who debuted in center for Tacoma on Monday night and finished 1-for-3 with a run and walk, was drafted by Los Angeles as a 17-year-old in 2005. He struggled initially as a pro, but after two years he became a switch-hitter and worked his way up through the Dodgers' farm system.
Robinson's hard work paid off. The 23-year-old hit .300 in 2010, and this season with Triple-A Albuquerque, he cranked 26 home runs -- tied for third in the Pacific Coast League as of Monday -- with a .293 average and a team-high 71 RBIs. He also appeared in the Triple-A All-Star Game, as well as the Home Run Derby.
The last 48 hours have had Robinson's head spinning. The Isotopes were playing in New Orleans on Sunday when he found out from the Albuquerque field coordinator that he had been traded to the Red Sox. But five minutes later, Robinson was told he was dealt from Boston to Seattle.
"I'm just like, all right, I'll just wait another seven minutes to see what else is going to happen," joked Robinson, who added that his cell phone ran out of battery three times because of all the texts and calls he received.
With the Rainiers traveling to Albuquerque Wednesday, Robinson had the choice of flying back to his apartment in New Mexico to pack up and then meet his new Tacoma teammates for Wednesday's road game.
But he said that he wanted to get comfortable with his new team, and by Monday's batting practice, there was Robinson at Cheney Stadium in his new blue and white threads.
"Ever since I came out of high school, all I knew was the Los Angeles Dodgers," he said. "I was on the shuttle van going to [Cheney Stadium] and I didn't know what to think. My head was going everywhere. I just took it in and said this could be a good thing."
The humble Robinson had an interesting childhood growing up in the tough neighborhood of South Los Angeles. As a youngster, he was a product of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), a program for young athletes designed to promote participation in baseball and softball while keeping academics a priority.
Robinson remains gracious for RBI. When there weren't any tournaments going on -- or if other camps and tournaments just became too expensive -- there was always RBI.
"Just being a part of that, [RBI] being everywhere in the whole inner city when there's nothing else going on, I'm just thankful for that," he said.
Even more important was the influence of Robinson's mother, aunt and grandmother. All three demanded that the talented athlete play sports and use them as a distraction from the tempting dangers of South Central.
"They pushed sports my way so I wouldn't have any down time to think about hustling, gangbanging, all that stuff," Robinson said. "I'm deeply thankful for the situation I had when I was younger and the women I was surrounded by."
Even though he hasn't yet made it to the big leagues, Robinson already wants to give back to his community. He wants to be an example of what good can come out of his neighborhood.
"I just want to be a role model," he said. "Anything can happen. Anything is possible and nothing is impossible. Especially when you're growing up in L.A. like that, you always think, 'Oh gosh, it's too hard or it's never going to happen.'
"Anything can happen. Look at Darryl Strawberry, look at Eric Davis, look at Baron Davis -- all them big guys. Anything can happen."
Robinson's visions already seem beyond his years. From the look and sound of it, it appears as though the Mariners have their hands on a promising young player who has the right mindset to play in the Major Leagues.
"I just want to bring excitement, energy and play hard," Robinson said. "Hopefully good things will happen. I just try to play hard."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.