Rams’ Roberts making the most of a second chance

Rams’ Roberts making the most of a second chance
April 23
00:00 2015

When outfielder Des Roberts arrived at Winston-Salem State at the start of the new year, he had no idea of what to expect in his new situation. Unforeseen circumstances had forced him to transfer from UNC Charlotte (UNCC), where he had established himself as a reliable starter.

Four months have passed since then, and it’s clear that Roberts and the Rams have benefited from their union. The addition of Roberts to the lineup has produced handsome dividends for a WSSU team looking to repeat as CIAA champs and make a return to the NCAA playoffs next month.

Roberts, a redshirt senior who bats left and throws left, is hitting .311 with 28 RBIs and a team-high 12 doubles. It hasn’t taken Roberts long to become a fixture in the top portion of the Rams batting order.

At times he hits in the lead-off spot. At other times he bats second or third in the lineup. As an outfielder, he’s been close to flawless (no errors in the 41 games he’s played in this season).

“Des came in and got acclimated to the team right away,” said Coach Ken Ritsche of WSSU. “He’s very consistent and that’s what we need from him. Not only is he a constant threat to get on base, but he drives in runs when those opportunities present themselves.”

Roberts has produced at a relatively high level in spite of an ongoing wrist injury. Last fall, he had a bone removed from his right hand, but never went through a full recovery period. As a result, he’s had to deal with ongoing pain and discomfort, which affected his swing earlier this season.

By mid-March, he had learned how to cope with pain where it would no longer hamper his ability to hit for average. During a 10-game stretch, he hit .433 with eight RBIs and upped his batting average by 65 points to .370.

“It all comes down to pain tolerance,” said Roberts, who played two seasons at Garden City Community College (Kansas) before going to UNC Charlotte. “I had to learn how to get past the pain and play through it. My batting numbers would be better if it wasn’t for the injury. But I’m hitting over .300, so I can’t complain.”

This final college season for Roberts almost never happened. Last November, he was accused of taking part in hazing activities on the UNCC baseball team. Roberts and four other players were suspended from the 49ers program. The school has started its own investigation, which is ongoing and not yet completed.

In the meantime, Roberts gave serious consideration to walking away from the game for good. The situation at UNC Charlotte left him wondering if it would be worth his while to continue his career. He had other baseball offers and chose Winston-Salem State over the University of Central Missouri.

As things turned out, the NCAA transfer rules worked in Roberts’ favor. As a transfer from a Division I school (UNC Charlotte) to Division II, he was allowed to transfer and be immediately eligible to play at the start of the new semester in January.

“For a while, I wasn’t too sure about playing any more baseball,” said Roberts. “But I’m happy about the decision I made. Now, I’m in a position to finish what I started. Coming in, it was difficult to determine expectations of any kind. My attitude was to go out, play ball and we’ll see what happens. I believe we have a good chance to do something special and win the CIAA, and hopefully go to the regional championships and make some noise.

“I haven’t been here that long, but I’m in a very good situation here. My new teammates are like brothers to me. For the group of seniors on this year’s team, I want to do every thing I can to do my part and not let them down.”

Roberts is hopeful that he can take his game to the next level. Last summer, he played well for the Thomasville Hi-Toms of the Coastal Plain League, a wooden-bat summer league that helps college players refine their skills for the pros. Roberts hit .358 for the Hi-Toms and was voted in as a starting outfielder on the West team for the 2014 CPL All-Star Game.

“I’m looking forward to showing people what I can do,” he said. “It’s about playing hard and holding nothing back. If things work out and I make it, that will be fine. If it doesn’t work out, I can still be satisfied because I know I would’ve given my very best effort.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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