Orioles beat writer Eduardo A. Encina sat down with Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts before Wednesday's game against the Royals to talk about his recovery from multiple concussions and the one-year anniversary of his last game. His head-first slide into first base on May 16, 2011 triggered a second onset of concussion symptoms.
The details are in today's Orioles notebook, but here's a more complete transcript of the Q&A with Roberts, where he reflects on being away from baseball for a year, how close he feels to getting back in a game and what he's learned about himself since his last game.
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EAE: I’ve noticed you’ve been doing some defensive diving drills the past few days. How’s that been going?
BR: It’s a pretty big hurdle, getting on my belly and trying to get back to aggressively getting on the ground. It’s a big hurdle physically as well as mentally. I think anybody who goes through an injury, one of the hardest things is repeating the activity that injured you. It’s no different than when I blew out my elbow. I didn’t want to cover first for about three years. It’s part of that progression. So far so good. I did some more today. I’m getting a little more comfortable and more aggressive with it.
EAE: How long have you been doing that?
BR: We started five or six days ago, maybe we took a day or two off in between. It’s been a gradual progression. I started on my knees softly diving. Now I’m diving for balls off of a fungo.
EAE: I know you’ve talked about taking your recovery day by day, but at this point do you see the possibility that you’ll get in a game soon?
BR: We’re finally close enough where at least the doctor and I and the team can talk about days. For a long time we didn’t even talk about days. We’re finally getting to the point where we can at least bring that into the discussion. We haven’t narrowed anything down by any means. It still is, as my doctor says, a fluid situation, but we are at least to the point where we could start to look.
EAE: Today’s the one-year anniversary of your last game. Have you thought much about that?
BR: It hit me a couple of days ago that it was coming up. I actually asked Brian Ebell, our trainer, the other day, 'Did I get hurt on the 16th or 19th? Because, you know, brain trauma, I don't remember.' (Laughs) He actually told me it was the 16th. So I knew about it being today. I had thought it was the 16th, so yeah, I have thought about it. I thought about it a lot today actually. It’s one of those things you try to look back on and see what you’ve learned and what God’s tried to teach you through it. I think it happened for a reason. He’s in control of it, but at the same time, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been extremely hard and very frustrating at times, but at the same time, I’m very grateful for where I am today.
EAE: So when you think about this day – and being out of the game for a full year – can you be optimistic because you’re heading in the right direction toward a return?
BR: In August or September or November or December, I wouldn’t have been able to look at this in a very positive light probably in a lot of ways, as much as I try to live my life in a kind of way where I look at things in a positive light. I believe that God’s in control, but at the same time, when you’re in the midst – in the real depths of something that’s hard – it’s not fun. I’m very thankful that on the one-day day I can look at this in a much more positive light. I don’t want this to sound bad in any way, but I wouldn’t trade it because I wouldn’t want to trade anything that’s happened in my life. If I scripted it, it wouldn’t be what I scripted because I obviously would have loved to have been playing baseball the last 162 games, but at the same time, I hope that I’m a different person than I was a year ago. I think that if we can all accept our lot in life and what happens and learn from it and use it for positives, we should never want to change anything.
EAE: I remember asking you during the spring about whether you’ve learned anything about yourself having gone through this. Seems like you’re still learning.
BR: I’ve learned even more since then for sure, I think last year, because I wasn’t with the team, it was very different for me. I think the last couple months, I think I've learned a lot about hopefully being a good teammate, even when things may not be going the way you want around you, to try to help those around you and encourage them and enjoy the good times with other people, too. This has been bittersweet in some ways because I would love after 12 years to be going through the great times again on the field. But at the same time, I’m having as much fun as I would if I was playing because I see the guys having that much fun. And this is all a part of my family. To see that, it has been great.
EAE: I’ve noticed on a few occasions you’re next to Buck in the dugout during the game. You mentioned a few weeks ago that you wanted to use your experience to help your teammates – you talked to Adam Jones and Robert Andino about base-stealing. How important is that for you and does that help your recovery?
BR: I feel like if you don’t use your experiences in life to affect others in a positive way, what did you go through them for? The organization has put a lot of trust in me in some ways because, as you can see, there’s no other DL guys here. So I feel fortunate to be with the team and do the things that I’m doing, even though it’s necessary from what my doctor has prescribed. I don’t want to be just taking and taking and taking off time from these guys and the coaching staff and the trainers and everyone who’s taken the time in with me. I want to be able to bring something beneficial and not just take, so that’s what I’ve tried to do, share some wisdom and if nothing else, just be an encourager. I know what it’s like to go through this game every day. I feel like that’s something I hopefully can bring to this locker room every day.
EAE: After you and your doctor feel comfortable with how you've progressed with the diving drills, are there any more hurdles before playing in a game?
BR: I would say, based on what my doctor and I have talked about, it’s probably the last real big hurdle. I think we’d like for me to get more comfortable with that. I think he really wanted me to go through one more road trip like this where we got in late at night, quick turnaround, things like that. Quick schedule changes are also difficult through this process, recovery time, stuff like that. So that’s another step he wanted me to get more comfortable with and get through some of that and have some real good days, so we’ll see how we are with the physical and the travel and hopefully in the next week, or soon, and start to circle some dates maybe.