Jacob Roberts is the latest pitcher to blossom in the Collegiate League of the Palm Beaches. The right-hander moved to South Florida from Nebraska and is dominating for the Primal 9 Kings with 36 strikeouts in 28 innings to go along with a 3.21 ERA.
When Roberts moved to Florida, he was ready to move on from baseball and become a firefighter. Then, a work connection led Roberts to the TBT training facility in Boca Raton, which opened up a playing route for the former catcher, this time as a pitcher.
Dominic Stearn caught up with Roberts for more on his journey and what is making him so successful in the CLPB.
Q: How would you assess your first month and change here in the CLPB?
A: I’m pretty proud of myself. I started pitching a couple months ago, and I was previously a catcher. I made this transition and I wasn’t expecting to do as well as I think I am. I’m really proud of all the people who helped me along this way and I appreciate the league for allowing me to play and keep having fun.
Q: Who would you say has helped you the most?
A: When I got down in Florida originally, I was just serving my life and going to school to be a firefighter and my manager introduced me to her boyfriend, O.J. He played pro ball as an independent and we were just talking about baseball and he was like, ‘Hey, do you still want to play?’ I was unsure, so he invited me to come down to the facility in Boca Raton, TBT. I went to just play catch, and maybe go up on the mound. I was like, ‘What the heck, I might as well just for some fun.’ Then there’s Sean Farrell. He said I just had to give it a shot. I mean, it’s better than just starting my real life already. Sean and O.J. over there at TBT have been just phenomenal to me. They’re amazing people and I can’t thank them enough for everything, not only baseball wise, but allowing me to go to a facility and lift for basically free and give me an opportunity to believe in myself. I just recently committed to Palm Beach State. I now get to finish my degree and I get to play baseball a little bit longer. It’s really all thanks to them. They’ve helped me tremendously these past few months.
Q: How has the recruiting process been going for you after you kind of were done with your playing career, and then all of a sudden it kicking back up again, and at a new position?
A: It was a little weird. I came down here just to live life. As soon as I got connected with the guys at TBT, Sean and O.J. knew I got a shot to keep playing. They talked to a bunch of people and got me in contact with a few coaches, but ultimately O.J. gave a call to coach Forbes at Palm Beach State and it happened really quick.
Q: How excited are you to play Palm Beach State?
A: I’m excited for an opportunity to just keep playing. The ability to be in Florida and not be in cold Nebraska is a big plus, but it’s nice to know you have a chance and opportunity to keep playing because this isn’t my life anymore. It’s just fun for games. Now I’m looking to finish my degree, but I really appreciate folks for just giving me an opportunity to keep playing.
Q: How’d you meet coach Rick Wolfer and get on Primal 9?
A: Rick is a friend of Sean at TBT. Sean called up coach Rick to try and get me on the team, and it was really just a day later that he called me and we had a good talk.
Q: How was your relationship developed with Rick because he has a pitching background?
A: He’s taught me a lot not just with pitching, but with life in general. Coach Rick’s a good guy, and pitching wise he’s really introduced me to a lot of things I was really oblivious to as a catcher. I thought you just threw the ball, but he’s taught me little nuances and feelings and the craft of pitching. I appreciate him tremendously.
Q: What have you taken from being a catcher to being a pitcher?
A: It’s a competitive mindset. I believe every catcher has to sit back and get beat up for nine innings, and I’ve taken it to the mound. Sometimes if you’ve watched me pitch, I’ll be talking to myself or whatever. I’m telling myself, ‘Come on, you’re better than this. Be better.’ And from catching to pitching, the mindset hasn’t really changed. When I was behind the play, I had to get my job done, but now that I’m on the mound, I need to get my job done.
Q: You got a pretty good fastball and a slider to go along with it. Was that kind of a pitch that you naturally picked up, or had you been messing around throwing pitches before?
A: When I went to the facility, we were goofing around. My good pitch is the fastball because I’ve always had a good arm. So the fastball was something that I just naturally have. But I was in there and just decided to throw a slider, and it spun really well. That’s what sparked me pitching because it’s hard to pitch without a good offspeed pitch. Since then, I’ve been working on a splitter and curveball, but the slider was something that I picked up. I’m blessed to be able to throw something like that.
Q: One thing I noticed with you on the mound is that you’re always really locked in. You also get pretty fired up on the mound. What’s truly going through your mind when you’re out there?
A: I’m a super competitive person with anything. It could be chess or sometimes I’m driving and I won’t let people pass. When I’m on the mound, I think of it as a mano-a-mano. I want to get you out anyway, and it’s fun for me. I’m getting you out, and you’re trying to take me deep. That intensity comes from my passion for competing.
Q: What’s your favorite team?
A: I’m supposed to say the Cornhuskers favorite team, but I don’t really care about them. I’ve always been a Giants fan for baseball. I loved watching Barry Bonds, and I watch his highlights all the time. I tried to emulate his swing. I’m a righty, so I didn’t really look too much like it, but I watched Buster Posey growing up. He’s my idol and was the reason I wanted to be a catcher. I love the history and the culture of the team.
Q: Is there anything else that you think our readers should know about you?
A: Everybody treats this game as life or death, but it’s a game to have fun. I wish more players would just enjoy their time out here, and enjoy the competition. Be intense, smile, and have fun with it. It’s not life or death to me anymore. I’m just playing a game.