Facebook Twitter

MARK ROBERTS IS ENJOYING HIS RETURN TO BASEBALL

SHARE MARK ROBERTS IS ENJOYING HIS RETURN TO BASEBALL

Last year, Mark Roberts walked away from baseball.

The 22-year-old Roberts had just undergone four operations - two shoulder and two elbow - and had been released after spring training in the Cincinnati Reds' organization.It wasn't like Roberts hadn't tasted success in baseball. He played for Dixie College, finishing sixth in the nation at the Junior College World Series in 1989.

The former third baseman/outfielder also experienced a great prep career at Taylorsville, where his Warrior teams won the Utah State American Legion Tournament in 1987 and the 4A championships in 1986 and 1987.

By walking away from the game last year, Roberts wanted to gain a new perspective on life. Luckily for Taylorsville, he found out one thing, "I really missed the game. I thought I should give it another shot and see what I could do coaching the team.

"Let me tell you something, it's been a big adjustment," he said. "Without Dave Littlewood assisting me and having parents' solid backing, I don't know what success I would be having."

But Roberts' secret for success is hardly a secret. He just rekindled his drive to succeed.

Roberts, however, is the first to admit that it's really been Taylorsville's great baseball tradition that has really helped him and renewed his interest in the sport.

"I came into the program and played for two great coaches - Ron Rushton and Barry Sceili," explained Roberts. "And, of course, Steve Cramblit and Mike Littlewood turned over the 4A championship team to me this summer. So, this team is pretty polished before I get a chance at coaching them."

Roberts is right. It does help to have players like third sacker Chris Lyman hitting .450; second baseman Glen Spencer blasting the horsehide at a .600 pace; junior shortstop Tony Pezly at .375, and three seniors - Justin Thomas (Snow), Joseph Johanson (Snow), and Tony Gallegos (CEU) - having their sights set on college baseball.

Thomas, a first baseman/pitcher, Johanson, a catcher, and Gallegos, centerfielder, add maturity to a very young team.

"Actually, I hate to predict anything, but this is going to be a solid team before we're through this season," said Roberts in almost an understatement. "They're really talented. We have 18 players who can step in and do the job.

"There are not a lot of Legion clubs that can say that. I honestly believe with Pezly and Spencer that we have the best club defensively up the middle in the state."

Add a solid defense and hitting to a pitching staff, which includes junior left-hander Matt Rex, who was the 4A Most Valuable Player this spring, and sophomore Brett McDermaid, who pitched a one-hit shutout against West last Monday, and it's easy to see why the Warriors are 5-1 in the Salt Lake Valley Gust Division (they trail Skyline (4-0) by half a game).

Going into a weekend tournament at Billings, the Warriors are 8-3 overall.

"Hey, this is only my first year of coaching," explained Roberts, who is currently finishing his college degree at Utah. "I'm really enjoying it. The kids make it easy for me. It's the system. They already knew how to win before I started coaching them."