Robinson’s journey full of “switches”

// Outfielder has adjusted to changing teams, batting approach

For the first six-plus years of his career, Rainiers’ outfielder Trayvon Robinson bled Dodger blue. Then, in the space of 24 hours at the trading deadline last year, he was traded to Boston, who sent him on to the Mariners along with Chin-Hsien Chiang for Erik Bedard and Josh Fields. Since then he has spent most of his time with Tacoma, but was called up to Seattle for his Major League debut at the end of the 2011 season. During his years with the Dodgers’ organization Robinson, who turns 25 on Sept. 1, earned several awards and became a switch-hitter. Robinson was recalled to the Mariners on July 24 – presumably to help replace the departed Ichiro Suzuki. Tacoma Weekly baseball correspondent Karen Westeen recently sat down with the Southern California native to find out more about his career.

TW: You were raised in the Los Angeles area. Do you still live there?

TR: No, I live in Tempe, Ariz. now. I moved there after the Dodgers moved from Florida for spring training.

TW: You were a senior in high school when the Dodgers drafted you in 2005. What was draft day like for you?

TR: It was about two weeks before I graduated and my mom let me take the day off so I could wait for my name to be called.

TW: Were you a Dodger fan growing up?

TR: No, my favorite team was the Rangers and my favorite player was Juan Gonzalez.

TW: After you were drafted you went to Florida to play in the Gulf Coast League. You were just 17. What was that like?

TR: It wasn’t as bad as I thought. A lot of us were about the same age. My first roommate, Steve Johnson, made it a lot more comfortable for me. He’s with the Royals now. The way Dodgertown is it’s kind of like dormitories, so we’d just walk to the field, and walk right back to the dorm.

TW: And in 2008 you were promoted to Inland Empire (about 40 miles east of Los Angeles.) That must have been like being in your own backyard.

TR: Oh yeah, that was close to home. I felt really a lot more comfortable. That was pretty awesome.

TW: While you were with the Dodgers organization you earned three Dodger Pride awards. You also were named to a mid-season All Star game and to the East team in the Rising Stars All Star game, both in 2010. Did you play?

TR: Yes, I played in both of them, and I was in the home run derby last year at the Triple-A All-Star game.

TW: You have played mostly left field since you got here, plus a few games at DH. Have you always been an outfielder?

TR: No. Actually I was a catcher, but then when some All-Stars came around I got moved to center field and I never caught again.

TW: In 2006 you became a switch-hitter. What made you do that?

TR: It wasn’t my choice. If it was my choice I’d be a right-handed hitter. When I was fresh out of high school I was one of the fastest kids in the Dodgers’ organization, and I weighed 30 pounds less than I do now. I could use my speed a lot more, and it was better for me to become a switch hitter. I’m still learning what I can do from each side of the plate. It’s a lot of hard work. I’m up at 7 a.m. to try and take more swings.

TW: In April 2011 you were chosen to take part in the Rookie Career Development program in Washington, D.C. Talk about that.

TR: It’s designed to help us handle the media and it was awesome. We went to White House and even though we didn’t meet the president, we saw the Marine helicopter take off, and I was thinking it was him.

TW: Just about a year ago, at last year’s trading deadline, you were traded twice in one day. What was that like?

TR: I thought I was going to become a Dodger and play close to my hometown. (When I was traded) I was frustrated. I thought I would wear one uniform (my whole career.) I wondered what I had done wrong. It’s hard to understand the business part of the game.

TW: Obviously the Mariners thought highly of you and wanted to get you into this organization. Did that help?

TR: (Yes, I learned to) stay strong, just keep going, keep running the race. It’s not where you start but where you finish.

TW: After the trade you were here for three games then got called up to the M’s. You made your debut in Anaheim and got your first Major League hit, a single against Jered Weaver, on Aug. 5. But you also made a great defensive play in that game. Describe that.

TR: I made a catch in Anaheim that was on ESPN highlights. (It was a possible game-saving catch of a home run off the bat of Torii Hunter that was the No. 1 highlight.)

TW: Where did you see the TV coverage?

TR: I was with my brother and his girlfriend. We went out after the game and it was all over the TV. I just put my head down. I don’t know how I got the ball.

(The next night Robinson got his first Major League home run, and on Sept. 7 he hit a home run that was even more special because it broke up a no-hit bid by the Angels’ Jerome Williams, and was the only hit and run by the Mariners in what eventually turned out to be a 3-1 loss.)

TW: In light of those events, do you feel you are better at offense or defense?

TR: I like to say both. If I don’t get a hit, (then maybe I can take one away so) they don’t get a hit.

TW: You played all the way through September last year for the first time in your professional career. What was that like?

TR: My body was heavy, I was really tired. It was more mental. I kept thinking “Is it over yet?”

TW: So what is your workout schedule like in the offseason?

TR: I try to make myself faster, get stronger, reduce my body fat and work on learning how to prepare for different counts at the plate.

TW: So far what has been the highlight of your career?

TR: My first game in the big leagues, and the first time I hit a walk-off home run as a switch-hitter, with the Gulf Coast Dodgers.

TW: Have you thought at all about what you would like to do when your playing career ends?

TR: I want to give back, and I will always be involved with baseball. I would probably be a coach somewhere. I also love cars, so maybe I would have a shop.

Contact the writer at missbaseball9@juno.com.

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