David Robertson has been waiting for this moment for 14 years.
The 37-year-old Chicago Cubs player was itching to be in the batters field just once in his major league career. His time finally came Wednesday night at PNC Park in the Cubs’ decisive 14-5 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Robertson hasn’t been an official bat since high school as a shortstop and pitcher in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, during which he had 787 pro baseball appearances since being kicked out by the New York Yankees. University of Alabama in 2006. .
But Robertson hoped that at some point in his major league career, a chance would come. The situation, of course, was not standard. With two strikeouts in the top of the ninth, Robertson hit Pirates infielder Diego Castillo.
As everyone in the Cubs dugout lined up at the railing to watch in the front row, Castillo took out a swinging Robertson with a full count. In honor of his first MLB at-bat career, Robertson received a Cubs roster card from the game. He plans to find a place to hang it in his house.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever get another opportunity, so I’m glad I did it and made my dream come true,” Robertson said. “Even though I got out.”
Robertson borrowed Christopher Morel’s bat and Jan Gomez’s helmet. Someone offered him batting gloves, but he refused. He figured they wouldn’t matter because Robertson’s approach was simple: swing hard and hit the ball.
“I really didn’t think of anything else,” Robertson said. “It seemed that the mound was very close.”
His memorable moment was initially long.
Robertson, who scored eighth without points, needed the help of the offense to get to the plate. He was placed in the hitter’s designated spot in the order, which was not to be assigned until the eighth seed in the last inning. Castillo sent off two of the first three rookies he faced, but Andrelton Simmons left, Jason Hayward got hit to load the bases, and Alfonso Rivas followed with his first career Grand Slam. Rafael Ortega’s two-punch single shot lifted Robertson.
“I didn’t think it would actually happen,” he said.
“And then I blew it up. I ruined everything.”
Robertson trailed Castillo 1-2 before working the full score. He sniffed on the sixth inning bat raised above the potential ball zone. Robertson has never seen a field faster than 55.4 mph. One of his three hits and misses came at 40.4 mph.
Throughout the episode, Robertson’s face broke into a smirk.
“It was fun getting into the box, I just couldn’t hit the ball,” said Robertson. “It was so slow and I wasn’t going to go. … I mean, it’s easy to tell when it’s a ball or a hit, when it’s like 40 mph, but I wasn’t going to go. I had to swing. I should have tried.”
Manager David Ross brought up the subject with Robertson before the Pirates drafted Castillo in ninth place. Ross said he tried to get Robertson at-bat a couple of times this season and wasn’t sure it would work on Wednesday.
Robertson’s coaches and teammates laughed as they watched his shots. Ross joked that Robertson had “too bad speed for how slowly he approached”. He noticed that Robertson couldn’t stop smiling on deck and called him a kid at heart, even as the veteran pitched.
Robertson said he “absolutely” heard it from his teammates after returning to the dugout from his strikeout, all in good spirits, proclaiming, “They wore me down.” Ian Happ, who took first place after the win, joked that Robertson needed to get into the cage to work on his swing.
“It was tough,” said a surprised Keegan Thompson after holding the Pirates to one try in six innings. “He asked to bat all year and he swung and missed three times. I mean, at least he swung, but you have to put the ball in play.”
Baseball is a long season, and for a Cubs team closer to last than first, Robertson’s ease of hitting was welcomed.
“I felt like I was laughing in a dugout for the first time in a long time, so it was definitely good,” Ross said. “These guys keep coming in and working hard and you want them to do well and we do well and nights where you get to relax and take your mind off so many little things and just have some fun. and watching D-Rob stand up there and position the player against the pitcher this time, (it) was fun to watch.”