Even as long as he has been out – he had played just 118 games since the beginning of the 2010 season – it’s hard to fathom he hasn’t swung a bat in a game here in a full year.
But he last played at Camden Yards on July 1, 2012, going hitless against Cleveland before dealing with a hip issue that cost him the rest of the season. He made it back this spring (after sports hernia surgery) and then started the first three games of the regular season at Tampa Bay before injuring himself (hamstring) on a slide in that series finale.
So when he stepped to the plate in the third inning Sunday, many of the 40,878 fans rose to their feet to cheer Roberts – a scene caught on ESPN’ Sunday Night Baseball telecast.
The 35-year-old, serving as the club’s DH, struck out in that at-bat, but later singled and added a sacrifice fly.
After the game he talked to the media. This is what he said:
How does it feel to finally be part of a contending team?
“It’s what we all want to do. And for so long, we always went into spring training believing that’s what we were trying to do. But then a lot of times, unfortunately, about halfway it didn’t look very realistic. And it’s so different now to be at the halfway point almost and realize how realistic it is. And to be part of a team that you feel like really can go out there and can and should and will compete every single day and give ourselves a chance at the end of the year to do something great.”
Does it make it better because you contributed?
“Sure. If you are going to be out there you want to contribute. You don’t want to be the weak link in the chain and there are some pretty strong links in this chain and it is fun to be a part of. It’s just fun to be back around the guys and play the game. And, obviously, the atmosphere tonight, our city has fully embraced this team again and this organization and it’s great to be a part of.”
What was your feeling about the fan reception?
“My first at-bat was definitely special. For me to be here as long as I have, and go through so many ups and downs, you don’t really know sometimes if people are just tired of you. Or they really want you out there still. I said to somebody that I think my journey people can relate to. Life isn’t always easy. Not many people just have it easy every day. But they want to see you fighting, they want to see you continuing to try and make the best of every day. And that’s what I have tried to do. And I was very appreciative of the support.”
Did it feel like a full year since hitting here in a game?
“No, I don’t think it really felt that long. I really didn’t think about it. I kind of, actually, kind of forgot I didn’t play a game here this year. I felt like I played. And I was around the team and I was here for a little bit. So in some ways it felt like a long time, in other ways, it didn’t. More than anything it felt like a long time since I’ve been able to have some consistent at-bats. So I’m just happy to be back and be a part of it.”
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