By John Philip Wyllie
The path to the Major League has not been an easy one for former Montgomery High 2004 CIF Player of the Year, Oscar Robles. The 30-year old Tijuana native played most of his professional career in Mexico before breaking into the Majors with the Dodgers last year as a utility infielder. He is only the 16th Mexican-born player in the history of the organization to wear the Dodger blue. In 2005, he ranked among the league’s top ten rookies in several categories with 99 hits (fifth), 18 doubles (seventh), 31 walks (tenth) and a .272 average (ninth). All of that of course, guaranteed him absolutely nothing for this season.
Despite considerable interest, Robles opted to forego representing Mexico in the Inaugural World Baseball Championship in order to concentrate on returning to the Dodgers roster for his second season of Major League baseball.
“I definitely wanted to play for Mexico, but you have to understand that there were a lot of younger players trying to make the Dodgers roster. When you get to be 29 or 30 years old you have to think about that. That’s why I made that decision,” Robles said.
With his hold on a roster spot tenuous at best, Robles no doubt made the right decision.
Known more for his defense than his presence at the plate, Robles, a left-handed hitter, has struggled with a .143 average this season based on 14 plate appearances. He knows that will have to improve if he wants to remain a Dodger.
“You have to keep working hard,” Robles said. “There are a lot of good younger players in the minor leagues, so I have to give it 100% every day and show the coaches that I want to stay here.”
To increase his value to the team, Robles recently added first base to his resume. It is one that already includes second base, shortstop and third base.
“When you are a utility player, you have to be versatile and know how to play every infield position. Once you have played in the middle infield it is easier to move to another position. It is not very difficult to play first base, but it is a lot different from playing shortstop or second base.”
While the Padres have enjoyed a dramatic upturn in their fortunes since the beginning of May, the Dodgers are still struggling and smarting from the series sweep they suffered at the hands of their nearest rivals May 3 and 4.
“(Despite growing up in the San Diego area) I have been a Dodgers fan my whole life and the Dodgers-Padres rivalry is a good one. Whenever they play there is a lot of betting between friends in Mexico. To the fans it is a great rivalry, but to me it is just another game.” And another opportunity to prove that he belongs in the big leagues.