Moving in from the on-deck circle for the latest instalment of C’s Chat is 2019 Vancouver Canadians outfielder Will Robertson.
The 21 year-old native of Loose Creek, Missouri went from being a Bluejay to a Blue Jay after Toronto selected him in the fourth round of last month’s MLB draft from Creighton.
Robertson learned of his professional destination on a plane.
“It was interesting. I knew getting on the plane, I thought maybe I had an hour or so before the plane took off that I was going to get drafted but I later found out that the draft was starting right as the plane took off. That was kind of a dissatisfying feeling and then just kind of getting on the plane asking the stewardesses for Wi-Fi and everyone said (the airline) did (offer Wi-FI) so I was like, ‘Okay, at least I could watch it.’ And then I tried logging on and they’re like, ‘It’s just like for movies and entertainment purposes.’
So I kind of hit a wall with that so I guess we’re just going to sit. I got to play some cards on the plane and actually, one of my buddies Mom’s, actually one of her texts came through and told him that I was going to be a Jay and yeah, that was it. It was a great feeling but yeah, I found out about 32,000 feet above the clouds. (Laughs) Yeah, it can’t get any better than that!”
After getting back on the ground, Robertson’s cell phone got a strenuous workout.
“We landed and it was like, I don’t know, 200 texts let in at once when we got close to the ground, I guess. I get all these missed phone calls, snapchats and notifications popping up. Getting on the tarmac and getting to call my parents who were actually flying as well. They had Wi-Fi so they got to watch it so that was nice for them. I got to call my Dad and my Mom and they congratulated me. And then calling other people and responding to as many text messages as possible. “
Even though he did not witness his draft selection live, Robertson got a chance to celebrate the drafting of one of his Creighton teammates.
We actually went back to our practice facility and then got to watch my buddy (Isaac Collins) get drafted so it was kind of using all the emotions that I guess I didn’t get to experience in mine and I kind of using it towards his was awesome. He got drafted by the Rockies (ninth round) and he’s actually in Boise, so we get our chance to play him this year so it will be fun. He’ll kind of be on the other side of the white lines as he is playing but yeah, it was awesome to see him get drafted and then a whole bunch of other people from Creighton to get their names called too was awesome.”
Scouted by Wes Penick, getting drafted by the Blue Jays did not come as a complete surprise to Robertson.
“There was a handful of teams kind of interested in Day 1 and Day 2 and kind of just didn’t work out but yeah, I kind of didn’t really know. It was a handful of teams but yeah, the Jays were definitely a part of them.”
Cape Cod League
One thing that may have attracted the Jays to Robertson was his performance with the wood bat in the Cape Cod League last summer. He batted .300 with an OPS of .816 while compiling 11 doubles and four home runs with the Cotuit Kellers.
“Getting to play in the Cape Cod League last summer was awesome. You have your starter but you have the relievers that come in that are just as good and throw just as hard so you can’t take really take (your foot) off the gas. Once you get the starter out, you gotta kind of keep going and keep going. That’s something that’s different from college, for sure.
It was awesome going up there as a temp guy and kind of getting to stay all summer and getting that full contract. That meant a lot to me just because I had to work for it. I had to work to stay on the team which was awesome. I learned a lot and got to face—hopefully a teammate of mine—Alek Manoah. I got to face him. It was fun.
All the big name guys (from) the big name schools are up there playing and competing. Yeah, it was fun just to play against the cream of the crop and I think that definitely translated to me getting drafted and playing the way I did this year and whatnot.”
Craving Success for Creighton
The Creighton Bluejays reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. They got there by winning the Big East regular season and tournament championships for the first time since moving from the Missouri Valley Conference in 2014.
One of the biggest reasons for Creighton’s success was Robertson after he batted .309 with 17 doubles, 13 home runs and 62 runs batted in. He came into the season as the Big East Preseason Co-Preseason Player of the Year after a 2018 campaign that saw him slug .641 with an OPS of 1.053. He was glad to help push the Bluejays to greater heights.
“Being a part of the program for three years and now getting a chance to make to regional. That was kind of our goal all year long and then getting a chance to win the Big East, win the Big East tournament and then to get to go to a regional, and not only a regional but to go play the defending national champions in Oregon State was awesome. We fell a little short there but yeah, it was a great year and a great experience.
Honestly, some of my best experiences playing baseball were this year. Hopefully, we just keep building and keep being a Jay forever. That was the funny thing, talking to teammates of mine (about being drafted by the Blue Jays). I guess the Jays don’t want me gone yet. I guess I’m going to stick around for a little bit so it was funny.”
One of the benefits of attending Creighton for Robertson was playing at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, the host site of the College World Series.
“It was almost a big-league atmosphere there everyday. The locker rooms, the batting cages and stuff like that. The field, I didn’t have to do any prep work which is awesome. It was definitely a pitcher’s ballpark but I think if you square the ball up and just worry about making good contact, the ball kind of does what it does and luckily I got a few home runs out there.
And of course, playing the majority (of games) on the road helped out too but TD is awesome and I think you’re seeing it now at the College World Series that there’s a lot more home runs that there’s been in the past so that’s a good thing too. I think just trying to make solid contact as much as possible was a big thing and a lot of guys on our team this year did it too with Jake Holton and Parker Upton having almost double-digit home runs as well.”
Looking back on his college career, Robertson was glad he went to Creighton.
“I was not very highly recruited out of high school from a small town. (I was) not fully developed and I totally understand that but yeah, I didn’t get a lot of looks. I got a chance to play in front of the Creighton coaches and they invited me for a visit. Just playing at TD first of all is something that is a game changer and with their academics, my parents definitely wanted a school that some educational value and Creighton definitely was a school that kind of focused on academics as well as athletics. The facilities were pretty good as well. All in all, it was just a great experience for me and I wouldn’t have changed anything I did for the world.”
College vs. Pro
Robertson says the difference between college and the pro level is noticeable.
“I think the Big East this year had some good pitching up top on Friday and Saturday nights but I think you see here (in the Northwest League), it’s the depth.
Nat Bailey Stadium has a well-earned reputation as a park that is not hitter-friendly but he enjoys the atmosphere.
“It reminds me a little bit of TD and not in a good way. No, the field is awesome. The crowds, they pack 6,000 (fans) every night which is awesome. It’s a great atmosphere. I was telling (his teammates), it’s like you hit a ball hard and it just sounds like you hit a grand slam which is a great feeling. It gives you a little confidence, especially playing your first professional games.
It took a little bit to kind of calm down a little bit, get the nerves calmed down the first game and slow everything down but I’m definitely starting to come into feeling like closer than where I was in the college year and just kind of realizing that I belong here and kind of taking it a slower and it’s starting to come to me so it’s a good feeling.”
For fans who have yet to see Robertson play, he provides this scouting report.
“I’d say I’m a very aggressive hitter. I’m a very aggressive player and I go and play hard. Something I pride myself on too on is work ethic. For me, I just love hitting the fastball. I’m just very aggressive, that’s what I’d say.”
In the batter’s box, the left-handed hitting Robertson employs a wide stance in which his feet are lined up diagonally.
“I guess it was more in high school. I used to have kind of a bigger leg kick and then I think I was not hitting very well. My Dad told me just to simplify it so I got a little wider and sat back on that back leg I guess and just kind of started hitting well. I guess it never really changed and kind of standing close to the plate, kind of for me makes me feel I can get the outside pitch and get all the pitches.
I think at this level, I think that’s going to have to maybe start changing a little bit which just how hard the pitchers throw and that they can command the inside fastball so you’re going to have to back away a little bit just to give yourself some room on the inside but I like to be able to cover everything and trust my hands to stay inside the ball that I can get to it. Yeah, that’s kind of how it’s been so far.”
When he gets in the batting cage, Robertson breaks down his game plan.
“I’ve always been a pull hitter so for me, not hooking the ball and staying through (the ball) and kind of stay in the middle of the field for the first two rounds and making sure I’m letting it get deep and I’m letting it travel and not rolling over and just hitting backspin line drives. That’s kind of what I do and then try to drive the ball from gaps to gaps towards the later rounds. That’s kind of my plan in BP.
I didn’t usually do that in high school and in college. It’s kind of this last year when I kind of developed that (plan). I guess as a player, as you get older, you kind of get a little wiser and not just try to hit balls out of the ballpark. It doesn’t work as well here as other parks so it kind of makes you focus on back to the line drives so it works out good.”
From Westphalia & Fatima to Omaha
Before attending Creighton, Robertson starred on the baseball diamond and basketball at Fatima High School in Westphalia, Missouri near his hometown of Loose Creek. He led the Comets to a Class 3 baseball state title by belting a game-winning home run in the championship game. Another highlight was this majestic home run. He says where he comes from is not very well known.
“People ask me where I from. In Omaha, I just say Central Missouri and they’re like, ‘Okay, I kind of have an idea,’ but you come up to Canada and nobody really knows. Missouri is kind of a no-name state so you just say Missouri. I’m from a small town in the middle of Missouri.”
Growing up, Robertson says his favourite team was St. Louis.
I grew up a Cardinals fan. The whole family (were) Cardinals fans. I got to go to both World Series that they won so it was awesome. I definitely have change the roots a little bit to become a Blue Jays fan.”
His favourite Cardinal growing up is now a Blue Jay.
“It was kind of funny. After I landed on the plane, I was just thinking about the Blue Jays and who they have on their team. I was actually a big Randal Grichuk fan when he was in St. Louis with the Cardinals in the playoffs and stuff like that so that was kind of fun but year, Randal Grichuk was my favourite Cardinal growing up and now he’s a Blue Jay and I’m kind of in the same organization which is kind of cool too.”
Now that he’s a Blue Jay instead of a Bluejay, Robertson says he’ll make the adjustment.
“For me, I’m used to the one word but I’m getting used to a capital ‘B’ and a capital ‘J’ instead of a small letter but I’m going to squish them together and keep them both happy.”
Thanks a million again to Will Robertson for taking the time to talk in this edition of C’s Chat. He can be found on Twitter @Will21R. Special thanks also to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for arranging the interview.