Brian Roberts, a two-time All Star and fan favorite who spent all but one year of his 14-season career with the Orioles, has retired from baseball.
Roberts, who turned 37 this month, was released by the New York Yankees in August after hitting .237 in 91 games. He said two "very good teams" were interested in signing him in August, but he decided against it. As the year went on, he said it became clear that he could no longer play at the level he demanded.
"It was just kind of my time. There were numerous reasons that I felt like I couldn't play at a level that I was accustomed to and wanted to play at if I continued to play," Roberts said. "I always said that I wasn't going to be the guy that tried to hang on as long as I could."
The Orioles drafted Roberts as a supplemental first round pick in 1999, and, within two years, he was in the big leagues. The son of former North Carolina head baseball coach Mike Roberts, he was seemingly predestined to play baseball despite being listed at 5-feet-9, 175 pounds and overcoming open heart surgery as a 5-year-old.
By 2004 Roberts had become the Orioles' full-time second baseman and leadoff hitter and, in 2005, he started for the American League in the All-Star Game.
"If you knew me from the time I was in high school I certainly wouldn't say I was the most overconfident person in the world in my baseball abilities. I battled that, off and on, my whole career, whether I was going to be good enough," he said. "I don't know if that came from the expectations of being the kid of a baseball coach at a prominent school or being the smallest guy on the field, but I definitely thank God for the opportunity that he gave me."
By the mid-2000s, Roberts was clearly the most popular Orioles player, with his No. 1 T-shirt and jersey the most visible at Camden Yards. His public image took a hit in 2007 when he was one of 19 current or former Orioles who were mentioned in Major League Baseball's Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drug use in the sport. He later said that he had used steroids once in 2003, but didn't like the effect and never tried it again.
That admission didn't stop the Orioles from signing him to a four-year, $40 million deal before the 2010 season based on what he had accomplished on the field — he batted .314 in 2005, stole 50 bases in 2007 and hit a franchise-record 56 doubles in 2009.
But injuries, including a self-induced concussion when he tapped himself in the helmet with a bat after a strikeout, limited him to just 192 games in the four seasons following that extension. Overall, he hit .278 with a .349 on-base percentage in 1,327 games with the Orioles in 13 seasons. He is second all-time on the organization's stolen base list (278) and is in the top 10 in hits (1,452), runs scored (810) and doubles (351), among other categories. Despite his individual successes, though, he never played a game in the postseason.
"The game is an incredible game to play, to watch, to be a part of. Certainly I wish some of the things had gone a little differently," Roberts said. "But, at the same time, I hope that it changed me as a person as much as it did anything else."
Last offseason, the Orioles and Roberts' representation never discussed an extension and he signed a one-year deal with the Yankees, upsetting some Orioles fans who were irked he joined one of the club's chief rivals.
"I still wanted to play baseball. If people fault me for that, I really don't know what to say. I took, at the time, the best offer I had," Roberts said. "Do I wish in some ways that I had spent every day with the Orioles? Sure, that was a dream of mine for a long time. I don't think I ever shied away from making that pretty clear. It will always be the organization I feel like is home for me. … If I had ended up with the [Houston] Astros, nobody would have cared, maybe."
Roberts said he has no immediate plans for his future except spending more time with his wife and 14-month-old son.
"I know I'll want to do something eventually in some way, shape or form, but I have no idea really what that is right now," he said. "And I don't think I am ready to commit to anything at this point, anyway.
If he ends up returning to baseball in some capacity — whether it is with an organization or as a broadcaster — he said his first choice would be with the Orioles.
"I don't see why it wouldn't be. I can't speak obviously for the other side, but if that time comes or when that time comes, I'm sure that will be something that would be explored," said Roberts, who announced his plans for retirement earlier this week on Fox Sports Radio. "Having an opportunity to spend 13 years in an organization, in a community, establishing roots, hopefully having an impact on people's lives … that is what I was always hoping to try and do. And I hope, in a small way, I was able to accomplish that."