Richie Robnett has hit for power for the Ports.
Stockton Ports outfield slugger Richie Robnett has had a season full of ups and downs in his first full year in the minor leagues, but as the year winds down, the 22-year old's potential is still sky-high. Stockton Correspondent Daniel Ray caught up with Robnett and with Ports’ hitting coach Darren Bush on a recent home-stand to gauge the slugger‘s progress this season. (THIS IS A FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT)
Richie Robnett was selected in the first round (26th overall) by the Oakland A's in the June 2004 draft and moved his way on up to the Stockton Ports after starting with the short-season A league Vancouver Canadians in 2004.
Before the 2005 season began, Robnett got the chance to work with the big league club during spring training.
"It was awesome," Robnett said. "I got to learn a lot; see how they go about their business, and how they take care of business. They teach you a lot as far how to use their skills and how to be consistent using them. It is definitely any ballplayer's favorite experience."
However, spring training wasn't Robnett's only taste of the major leagues. After being signed by the A’s in 2004, Robnett was invited for batting practice at the McAfee Coliseum and impressed players and fans with his power.
"I was a little nervous at first especially since I didn't know anyone there," Robnett said. "I felt like a big leaguer that day. I just felt like I was one of them. I just tried to enjoy every second of it."
Robnett wasn't enjoying every second of the start of the 2005 season, as he spent two weeks on the DL with a pinched hamstring.
"It was real discouraging at first because I was just starting to get it going with the bat, starting to hit well and then it happened," Robnett said. "I didn’t think it was as bad as it was, actually. As weeks went by, I started to get an itch, then it was it getting irritated a lot for no reason."
"I really don't know what would have happened if I didn't get injured," Robnett said. "I think it did affect this season somehow. When I came back I tried to make up for time missed and that didn’t help me at all, it just put me in a bigger hole. But I think I have worked my way out of it and I’m just trying to finish out the season strong."
Despite a tough first year, Robnett has seen some improvements.
"I actually think I have improved everywhere this year," Robnett said. "I think it's by playing more games; the more games you play, the smarter you're going to be out there and become aware of different
"I'm always trying to improve my hitting," Robnett said. "That's a big part of the game, especially when you're an outfielder. (Manager) Todd Steverson has been helping me with my outfield work and just getting
better out there. In all aspects of the game, I think I’ve improved."
Some might see a little bit of Reggie Jackson's powerful swing in Richie's bat, but Robnett says he isn't trying to emulate anyone and that he is just trying to be the player that he is.
"The way I describe myself is just a guy who is very aggressive as far as on the bases, at the plate, and on the field," Robnett said. "I go at everything 100%."
"When things are going bad I just try to keep a level mindset, try to stay positive, and hope that things will eventually go well," Robnett said. "I always want to be a hero out here and take control of the game as much as I can."
Robnett left Fresno State early to pursue his major league dreams and does not have any regrets about making that decision.
"I went in the first round (of the MLB Draft)," Robnett said. "That was a huge part of my decision. You can't really turn that down if somebody likes you that much. It was a great opportunity for me to go out there and see what I was made of."
"I had a good time at Fresno State and I learned a lot while I was there but I thought it was time for me to move on and I wanted to get my professional career started. That's why I’ve been playing this game, so I can be a professional baseball player. I saw my chance and I took it."
Robnett left college early to enter into the major league draft, but did not realize he would be picked so high.
"I was really excited," Robnett said. "I wasn't expecting that. I mean, I really didn't talk to the A's all that year. But I was just in awe when they picked me. Words can't really express how I was feeling that
Adjusting to the schedule and an early injury in his first full season playing baseball, Robnett is batting .254 with 18 HR and 68 RBI for the Ports. He also has 128 strike outs in just 102 games.
"It is not going as well as I would have liked it to," Robnett said. "But I have made some adjustments and it has helped me. I just want to put that all behind me now and just finish the best way I can and
hopefully carry on into next season."
Although Robnett is disappointed with his first full year, others such as hitting coach Darren Bush, saw much improvement this year in Robnett‘s game.
"Richie's made progress," Bush said. "He came into the season swinging the bat well. He started doing pretty good but then had the pinch in the hamstring. That set him back a little bit. So he was out for around two weeks."
"He kind of had to start back over from scratch where we were working at," Bush said. "But he's had some ups and downs and I think he's doing a good job of fighting through it to be a better hitter than what his numbers are showing."
Bush also sees a bright future ahead of his slugging outfielder.
"I think in the future he's going to be perfectly fine, he just needs some time to adjust," Bush said. "This is his first whole season. He has to learn how pitchers throw different pitches in different counts.
He's doing a pretty good job in my opinion."