Humble Robinson is Dodgers' unlikeliest hero
Twenty-nine-year-old rookie delivers game-winner vs. Tribe with first MLB hit
LOS ANGELES -- When Clint Robinson says he's just happy to be here, believe it.
Seven years after being drafted in the 25th round by the Kansas City Royals, after 3,217 Minor League at-bats and 970 Minor League hits from Idaho Falls to Northwest Arkansas and most recently Triple-A Albuquerque, Robinson took center stage at Dodger Stadium on Monday night and delivered the winning hit, his first in the Major Leagues at age 29.
He received a hero's welcome when he returned to a dugout filled with Dodgers multi-millionaires.
"Everybody wants to talk about being 29 years old and being in the Minor Leagues for eight years and all that, but I really enjoy my job," said Robinson after the Dodgers' 1-0 win over the Indians. "I still get paid to come to the ballpark every day and play baseball. Everybody says it's such a grind in the Minor Leagues, but it's something that I love to do, so just to get to come up here and contribute is icing on the cake for me."
After the Indians intentionally walked Hanley Ramirez, Robinson pinch-hit for starting pitcher Dan Haren and sent a 3-2 cutter from Corey Kluber up the middle with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, driving in Andre Ethier, who led off the inning with a triple.
"It might have been a little too high, but I got a ground ball," he said. "You can't really do much about that."
Robinson -- who had a four-game Major League cameo in 2012, going 0-for-4 with the Royals -- said he never lost hope that a night like Monday would happen.
"Absolutely. Every baseball player has to have confidence in their self, otherwise they're not going to succeed," he said. "So I always thought I had a chance to get here. It's just about being at the right place, at the right time with the right team, and it happened to work out that it was with the Dodgers, and here I am helping them win baseball games."
Manager Don Mattingly was no doubt pleased to see Robinson come through, but he wasn't surprised.
"I'm just happy for the kid. We've seen him in Spring Training, and right away he reminded me of [John] Olerud," Mattingly said, referring the 1993 AL batting champ who played in the big leagues for 17 years. "He's a real simple swing and has had good Minor League numbers for years. ... We liked his swing, and he was kind of tearing it up in Triple-A. It was good to see him have another chance."
By the time Robinson learned last week that he was being called up to the Dodgers, it was after midnight and, as he said, everybody he'd want to celebrate with was asleep. Not the case on Monday night.
"My wife's here. She flew in the other day," he said. "She's the only one here right now. My dad kind of stays away from the ballpark. He gets more nervous than anybody, so I don't think he'd be able to handle it. I'm sure he's at home in his office listening on his computer, jumping around like a crazy person."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.