Despite the reality that he will not spend his entire career in Baltimore, former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said Monday that he believes his baseball-playing legacy will always be tied to his 13 seasons at Camden Yards.
"I don't think I ever shied away from the fact that I thought that was a very special thing to be able to do — there are not a whole lot of players that can say they played 13 or 14 years in the league and all in one city with one team, one organization," said Roberts, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the New York Yankees this winter.
"It is something I was hoping I'd be able to do. But, at the same time, I honestly don't think it's going to take away from the fact that, in a lot of ways, Brian Roberts will always be an Oriole."
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Roberts, 36, is with the rival Yankees now — a fact that irritated a portion of the Orioles' fan base perhaps more than his actual departure from Baltimore.
"I've heard that sentiment [about joining the Yankees]," Roberts said. "But I guess, honestly, I can't say that I let that weigh too much into my decision. I had to take the best opportunity for myself and my family that was available."
The sting of Roberts' decision intensified some last week when, in an interview with the Yankees' YES Network, he said it was "time to move on" from Baltimore and "that as a kid, I think so many of us dream of putting that [Yankees] uniform on."
In a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun on Monday, Roberts said he never intended to take a parting shot at a franchise that drafted him in 1999 and a fan base that, for the most part, stuck with him through his career ups and downs.
"When I made the comments the other day, it seemed like somebody tried to take it as a dagger to Orioles fans," Roberts said. "My point of saying that a lot of kids dream about putting that uniform on — I didn't mean that as a jab at the Orioles or Orioles fans."
Roberts grew up in North Carolina while his father, Mike, was the head baseball coach at the University of North Carolina. One of his father's first Tar Heels players to be drafted was catcher Scott Bradley, who was a third-round pick of the Yankees in 1981 and debuted with that club when Brian Roberts was almost 7 years old.
"I had pictures of me as a kid in a Yankees uniform playing in the backyard because my dad had a player that played for the Yankees," Roberts said. "And I think it is something a lot of kids do dream of. Playing on that stage because of the 27 championships … But I didn't mean that as a dagger, and I hope that [Orioles fans] didn't take it that way."
In saying it was "time to move on," Roberts said that he meant he didn't get the sense he was a fit for the Orioles in 2014. The two sides never spoke about a new deal this winter — and he said there are no hard feelings on his end.
"Every organization comes to a point where they have to do the best for that organization and whether that means trading a really good player or not signing a player that's been there a long time," said Roberts, one of the most popular Orioles in the past decade who played in just 192 games after signing a four-year, $40 million extension in 2010. "I think that's where it had gotten to."
The sense within the industry is that if Roberts really wanted to return, he could have contacted Orioles principal owner Peter G. Angelos and made it happen. The two had maintained a strong relationship.
"I didn't think it was my place to use that leverage stick to come back," Roberts said.
In looking for a new home, Roberts said he was seeking playing time and a chance to be in the postseason. The Yankees offered both.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to continue playing," said Roberts, who can make an additional $2.6 million in incentives based on plate appearances. "I am excited for the next stage and being part of a tremendous franchise with so much history."
The first time the Yankees come into Camden Yards next season will be July 11-13. Roberts admits it will be exceptionally strange for him to go to the visiting clubhouse — he believes he has been there just once in 13 years — but he hopes it will be a good homecoming.
"The last thing I want is to walk away from [Baltimore] and leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth. I want people to know I appreciate everything that I have had in Baltimore," Roberts said. "It's been my wife's and my home. We've sunk ourselves into that city, on the field and off, and I just hope that everyone knows how much we appreciate their support in return."