Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts made his first competitive appearance on a baseball field in more than a year at Prince George's Stadium on Wednesday night and enjoyed every relatively uneventful minute of it.
"It was exciting…fun," he said. "You realize how much you enjoy playing the game of baseball and how fortunate you are to be able to play it this long and hopefully continue to do it."
Roberts has been recovering from the effects of multiple concussions since suffering his second in eight months in a game at Fenway Park last May. He has embarked on a 20-day injury rehabilitation assignment that he hopes will get him ready to return to the major league lineup in mid-June, but has a few more steps to take before that can happen.
The plan was to take two at-bats against the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Wednesday, but Roberts had to settle for two plate appearances. Richmond pitcher Mike Kickham walked him twice and Roberts didn't get the opportunity to swing the bat. He did get some action on the bases, however, and made a couple of assists in three innings at second base.
"When I got in the box, it was very comfortable…more comfortable than I thought it would be, " Roberts said. "I told Brady (Anderson), it might not have been the worst thing to just see some pitches."
He was pushed slowly around the bases after his first walk, but got to air it out after walking to lead off the third inning. Buck Britton doubled to the fence in right field and Roberts went all the way around to score when the ball was bobbled on the warning track for an error.
It looked like things might get interesting as he rounded third and headed for the plate, but the relay went to third base.
"I didn't think I was going, " he said. "When I took off, I thought obviously for sure double, but I wasn't anticipating scoring on that ball, and then obviously between second and third I realized that something was going on," he said. "Gary (Baysox manager Gary Kendall) before the game said 'I'm going to try to keep you out of any too-crazy situations,' so I figured that if he was sending me it probably was going to be OK for the most part."
He made one routine play on a bouncer right at him and also turned a double play with top infield prospect Manny Machado, but Richmond baserunner Ryan Cavan did not get there in time for a takeout slide.
There wasn't a huge crowd at Prince George's Stadium, but Roberts got a nice ovation when the lineups were announced before the game and also before each of his at-bats. While he was at the plate the second time, the Baysox mascot (Louie) paced the roof of the home dugout with a sign that said "Welcome back, Roberts."
Director of player personnel John Stockstill, scouting crosschecker Dean Albany, roving hitting instructor and talent evaluator Terry Crowley watched from behind home plate. Roberts had a number of friends and family members in the crowd, but said he was particularly touched that Anderson drove down to Bowie after the Orioles' 6-5 afternoon loss to the Boston Red Sox.
"He was here and — for 11 years — he's been a great influence for me," Roberts said. "He took care of me my rookie year. He's been somebody who has really encouraged me. We've pretty much trained side by side since spring training starts. For him to show up tonight after being there all day at Camden Yards…he said he wouldn't have missed me running on the field for anything, so I'm very humbled by his friendship and that he would think it's that important."
Roberts said he will go through the same routine Thursday night (two at-bats) and continue to play in Bowie at least through the end of the homestand on Monday. There is no plan yet on where he will continue his rehab assignment after the Baysox leave town.