by Roy Reiss
February 11, 2014
Pay an early visit to Lowell Park any day during the Kettleers season and you’ll see something very special. There’s a coach full of energy roaming the field, going from the left field bullpen area, to the 3rd base dugout, to the batting cage behind the Kettleers Kitchen, and then back to the main diamond to throw some batting practice. Say hello to Mike Roberts, a baseball lifer.
You’re looking for a bullpen session. You’ll see the coach with his small catcher’s mitt teaching the many ways to throw various pitches, especially the change up. Over and over he’ll work until the young Kettleers pitcher feels comfortable with what they’ve covered.
It’s base running you’re after. How about the drills he’ll put the players through. Getting the proper lead. Pivoting and sprinting toward the next base. It’s a science and the coach has a PHD in base stealing.
Hold on, you’re after hitting techniques. Bunting, hitting behind the runner, situational hitting, you name it and the Kettleers players have seen the coach in action.
“Coach Roberts is so special because of his tireless passion and energy for teaching the game of baseball!,” explains Brian Scott who has been his trusted assistant with the Kettleers for the past 4 summers. “He brings this passion to everyone he encounters through baseball, whether it’s the players that he coaches for a whole summer or perhaps two, a high school player that only gets to spend a couple of hours with him at a base stealing clinic, or countless conversations with Cotuit Athletic Association volunteers and Cotuit residents. He pays attention to the finer points of baseball, and loves to teach the fundamentals and the small details of the game.”
Mike Roberts is simply the consummate baseball man. He loves the game and passing along the game’s intricacies to the next generation of players. And now he’s being honored by the American Baseball Coaches Association who have elected the former University of North Carolina and current Kettleers coach for induction into their prestigious Hall of Fame in January 2015.
“I remember many days out on the Cape where Coach Roberts would be out in the bullpen working with the pitchers teaching us a change-up, one of his favorite pitches. That’s the same change-up that I use today and mixing it with my fastball has made me that much more effective,” says Dan Slania, the Kettleers ace relief pitcher in 2012 who was recently drafted by the San Francisco Giants. In fact the Giants hope to see if Slania can turn into a starter because they’re impressed with how he uses that change up along with his other assortment of pitches.
Players old and new say the same thing about the always-moving, always-teaching coach. Chad Holbrook has the unique perspective of someone who played collegiately for Coach Roberts at North Carolina (1990-94) and then coached besides him with the Tarheels.
“He’s got great enthusiasm and passion for the game, a tireless work ethic, and there’s no doubt it’s extremely infectious when you’re playing for him,” says Holbrook, the current head baseball coach at the University of South Carolina. “He taught me an incredible amount about the game as I got to experience his attributes standing beside him in the dugout. When you start coaching and you get a bit older, you gain an incredible amount of appreciation for his enthusiasm, his work ethic, his tremendous zest for the game of baseball.”
Yet maybe Coach Roberts best attribute is his genuine concern for the people he comes in contact with, both on and off the baseball diamond.
“He cares very much about his players as people, and draws the greatest joy from seeing these players polish their skills and put in the time and hard work to achieve their goals in the game. I can’t even begin to express how much I have learned from Coach through the past 4 summers in Cotuit,” adds Scott.
And this from Slania, “After leaving the Cape, Coach Roberts has always been there if I ever needed some advice or coaching tips. Coach Roberts was always pulling the best out of me both as a player and as a man.”
Mike Roberts. Hall of Fame baseball coach. It’s a perfect match.
Kettleers Korner will be anything and everything that might interest fans, past and present, about the Kettleers. Roy Reiss, who started his career working for Curt Gowdy Broadcasting, was a former sportscaster on Channel 7 and several radio stations in Boston. His son Mike now covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.