By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
MIDLAND, Michigan – Jacob Robson knew it was coming.
Before earning a second-half promotion to the Lakeland Flying Tigers roster in the Florida State League, Robson led the West Michigan Whitecaps and was among leaders in the Midwest League with a .329 average to go with a .408 on-base percentage in 60 games, and understood that his numbers could warrant him a spot on the East Division roster in the circuit’s all-star game.
The 22-year-old outfielder was raking when he first learned that he was going to be named to the prestigious event, and continued to do so into the game and as he’s moved up the ladder, already with three hits in three games in Lakeland.
“I had a pretty good idea,” Robson said of being named an all-star. “I didn’t really know when they were going to tell us, so it was earlier than expected. It was a surprise based on when we were told. But it’s a huge honour. I worked really hard to be where I’m at today, and it’s good to see some things pay off, and hopefully they keep paying off in the future.”
Joining an impressive squad filled with young talent from across the Midwest League, Robson enjoyed the chance to get to know his teammates and loved the experience they had at Dow Diamond in Midland, Mich., home of the Great Lakes Loons.
“It was awesome, getting to play with some of the best players in professional baseball,” the native of Windsor, Ont., said. “A lot of young players, who are going to have amazing careers in the big leagues. It’s an honour to be around guys like Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.] and [Bo] Bichette, [Fernando] Tatis Jr. Their dads have been around the game forever, so it was an awesome experience getting to meet the guys and play against the best players in the league.”
During the first of two autograph sessions for the players, Robson was paired with Guerrero Jr., a situation that allowed him the privilege of meeting future Cooperstown Hall of Famer – and one of Saturday’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees – Vladimir Guerrero, who attended the event to watch his son compete.
“It was a pretty brief meeting, and he was with his family, but it was really nice to meet Vlad Guerrero,” Robson said. “I got to shake his hand, which was huge by the way, and got a couple pictures with him, Vladdy Jr., as well in there. It was really nice of them to let me meet him.”
After cheering on his Whitecaps teammates Blaise Salter and Josh Lester in the home run derby – which came down to 18-year-old Guerrero Jr., and Dodgers 19-year-old prospect Carlos Rincon, both natives of the Dominican Republic – Robson started in centre field and batted in the two-hole for the East squad in the main event.
“I was surprised at how much talent there is here,” Robson said. “Rincon put on a show in the home run derby. We didn’t play against Great Lakes that much and I think he was hurt too, so I didn’t know who he was exactly. Then he came up and his swing was like butter. And then Vladdy, of course. [Blaise] Salter showed up for us at the derby, shout out to Salter, being one of the older guys, and he still did well.
“Tatis too, he’s skinny but he can generate so much bat speed and power. It’s pretty crazy to see all these guys. In the finals, they were both under 20, so crazy. Other guys who didn’t participate in the derby who were on our team, they were really young and you could tell they’re seasoned players even though they haven’t had as much experience. It was awesome playing with them.”
While enjoying all of the all-star festivities – and a chance to play in front of family and friends, not far from home – Robson embraced the opportunity to represent his nation as the only Canadian all-star in the Midwest League. Other Canuck all-stars competing last week included Calgary, Alta., native Mike Soroka, representing at the rained-out Southern League game, and Ontarians Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) and Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), named all-stars in the California League.
“It’s awesome representing Canada on this stage,” Robson said. “Vladdy Jr. was born in [Montreal] Canada, but I’m the only true Canadian player who grew up in Canada, so it’s a tremendous honour to represent my country, and to be the only one. I have to set a good example for other Canadians to come. It’s a huge deal. I know wherever I go, I’m representing Canada.”