George Roberts needed only three games to earn his first promotion in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor league system.
The Forest Hills graduate and former AAABA League MVP is adapting to the pace in the Class A short season Northwest League. A rookie first baseman, Roberts played his fifth game with the Hillsboro (Ore.) Hops on Saturday.
“Everything’s been really good so far,” said Roberts before Saturday night’s game against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. “It’s a little bit tougher (facing) pitching at this level, but everything has been going great. There are good coaches and good hitting coaches. I’m just trying to find a rhythm right now. I’m in a little bit of a slump.”
Roberts had one hit in his first 14 at-bats in the Northwest League, though he consistently is hitting the ball hard. On Saturday, Roberts was 1-for-3 with a run and a stolen base to raise his batting average to .125 (2-for-16). He’s scored five runs.
“Right now, I’m hitting the ball at people,” Roberts said. “I’m putting good swings on it. I’ve been unlucky here, but you’ve got to stay positive. If you start pressing, you’re in trouble. I’ve got to stay positive and keep working.”
The Diamondbacks selected Roberts in the 26th round out of Kent State in the MLB draft earlier this month. Roberts was the MAC Player of the Year as a junior and played in the College World Series. He batted .358 during his senior season and has been labeled one of the best players in Kent State baseball history.
The Summerhill native got out to a great start with the AZL D-Backs, a rookie league team based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Roberts went 3-for-10, batting .300 with a double, a triple and two RBI.
His hitting coach with the rookie club was former major league slugger Mark Grace.
At Hillsboro, the hitting coach is J.R. House, the former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect.
“I had a chance to work with Mark Grace, a great hitter,” said Roberts, who played in the AAABA Tournament with Delweld. “After the third game, I was told I was promoted. I just was getting settled in and I was told I was moving.
“Our hitting coach (House) mixes different pitches that you’ll see,” he added. “We get a lot of repetition, which is huge. We get the park five or six hours before the game and we work out right until the game.”
Roberts has received plenty of support from family and friends back home.
His older brother, Rick Roberts, provides first-hand knowledge of the pro experience. The Detroit Tigers took Rick Roberts in the 10th round in 1997 and he advanced to Class AAA in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization until an arm injury cut short the left-hander’s career.
“Rick just says to keep working hard and do your best,” George Roberts said. “He tells me not to press. Hits eventually will fall.”