Dragons first baseman following father
Son of Reds' roving hitting instructor ticketed for Dayton
By Marc Katz
SARASOTA, Fla. | Growing up, J.D. Roberts put a lot of pressure on himself to be a good baseball player.
After all, his dad, Leon, played 11 years in the majors before becoming a coach, a minor-league manager and for the sixth straight season, the roving hitting coordinator for the Reds.
"I spent the better part of my career worrying about that," J.D. Roberts said. "I had a great time with my dad, but I put more pressure on me than he did."
Finally, when J.D. was a junior at the University of Michigan, Leon Roberts had a talk with his son.
"He told me he didn't care if I was a ballplayer or a schoolteacher," Roberts said before hitting a double in a spring-training game Friday for the Dayton Dragons. "Whatever I did was okay with him. I haven't put pressure on myself since then."
Roberts will be a first baseman for the Dragons, who break camp after today's workouts. The Dragons ended their exhibition games Friday on a solid note, beating a squad of Orioles prospects 4-0 at their place across town.
Carlos Fisher, Zach Ward and Andy Weimer pitched well, especially Fisher, who worked the first five innings.
In addition to Roberts, third baseman Jarrett Reininger and catcher Craig Tatum connected for doubles and outfielder B.J. Szymanski hit a double and a triple.
Roberts had a good career at Michigan, but ended up being a late draft choice, taken in the 45th round in 2004. He went to Billings, Mont., and struggled in the rookie Pioneer League.
He was told he might get more at-bats if he switched from outfield to first base, and if he dropped back a notch to the rookie GCL Reds, where the younger players start out.
Roberts took the advice, and hit .300 the last month of 2004. Last year, back in Billings, he hit .284.
"If I don't make it to the big leagues, will I be disappointed?" Roberts said. "Yeah. We'll see what happens. I'm still getting experience at first base."
• Of course, Roberts didn't have a first baseman's glove when he moved to that position, but he met former Reds' first baseman Sean Casey when both were undergoing surgery in Cincinnati.
Casey told Roberts he had an extra glove and gave it to him. That's the one Roberts is using now, with Casey's name stitched on it.
• Roberts, who grew up in Arlington, Texas, nearly accepted a baseball scholarship to Oklahoma, but couldn't bear wearing any colors other than Michigan's. Both of his parents graduated from there.
"I knew the UM fight song when I was 4, 5 years old," Roberts said.
• Two more former Dragons were released by the parent Reds: catcher/infielder Evan Conley (.180 in 22 games) and pitcher Brad Cherry (1-0, 1.95 ERA in 17 games).
Cherry, a nondrafted free-agent signee, also pitched last year for Class AA Chattanooga and "high" Class A Sarasota.
Contact Marc Katz at 225-2157.