By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
So many names come and go in your life in this job. And many of them are just that — names you might hear again in passing or see on some long-ago scoresheet or in some article you stumble upon in your archives. Names as quickly forgotten as they are remembered.
Baseball writer and baseball player form a relationship, however forced or feigned it might be, over the course of a long baseball season or Spring Training camp. And when it’s all over — when the 35-year-old journeyman reliever gets designated for assignment or the 29-year-old prospect who never panned out gets optioned back to Triple-A one last time — we go back to our real lives and, more often than not, never hear from or see each other again.
Then there’s a day like today, when I got a text telling me Jeriome Robertson died in a motorcycle crash over the weekend in his hometown of Exeter, Calif.
I remembered a day in 2004, when I was an MLB.com intern dispatched to Buffalo to do some stories on Tribe prospects, and there was Robertson, a trade acquisition gone awry, trying to reshape himself as a reliever, a year after winning 15 games for the Astros. I remember how upbeat he was, and I remember thinking to myself something along the lines of, “Why is this guy who got routinely shelled in Cleveland and demoted to Buffalo in such a good mood?” As I’ve gotten (slightly) older, I’ve realized that those who let their positive personality shine through, no matter the circumstances, are blessed.
The following spring, I was hired to cover the Reds full-time. And there was Robertson again, in camp in Sarasota, Fla., trying to latch on in a starting or relief spot with a Reds team that signed him to a Minor League deal. As a 23-year-old kid with, admittedly, a ton to learn about this business and a little intimidated about my new role, it was nice to see a familiar face. He was the one guy in that room that I didn’t have to introduce myself to, and he was immediately happy to see me when I approached his locker. It made me feel welcomed. And his competitive fire shone through in our conversation.
“I never thought anything different than making the team,” he told me. “If I did, I’d be selling myself short. It’s hard to get a job when you don’t want it.”
He wanted it, but he didn’t get it. The Reds cut him… on his 28th birthday, no less.
Robertson never made it back to the Majors. He was in the Mets’ camp in 2006, in Mexican ball in ’07. I don’t know where life took him from there, aside from a too-tight curve on a California road. I don’t know why he was traveling that road at 70 mph. I don’t know how he had adapted to life after baseball, a difficult transition for so many who spend their entire adult lives chasing those big-league dreams and never achieve that sustained success or sign that big contract. I don’t know these things because Robertson was one of hundreds of players I’ve gotten to know only through occasional interviews, names I’ve typed on a screen.
And yet a sadness came over me when I got that text. I remembered Jeriome as more than just a name on paper because of the class and camaraderie he had displayed when our paths crossed in that impressionable stage of my career. My career in baseball was just starting, as his was drawing to a close, against his will. That his life drew to a close so quickly is a shock and a shame. My prayers go out to his family.
Rest in peace, Jeriome.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (18-31): CF Crowe, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, 2B Grudzielanek, C Marson, SS Donald. RHP Jake Westbrook (2-3, 4.78).
TIGERS (26-24): CF Jackson, LF Damon, RF Ordonez, 1B Cabrera, DH Boesch, 2B Guillen, 3B Inge, C Laird, SS Santiago. RHP Jeremy Bonderman (2-2, 3.78).