OGDEN — On fall nights past in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, 6-foot-2 quarterback Daniel Robinson could be seen winning games for the gridiron Norsemen.
Now, he’s a league-leading hitter with hopes of spending his falls on the diamond.
Ahead of Tuesday’s series opener against Missoula, Robinson led the Raptors (among players with 10 or more games) by hitting .389. He’d also committed zero errors.
“He’s a guy that can hit anywhere in the lineup and play anywhere in the outfield,” Raptors manager Jeremy Rodriguez said.
Robinson said Central Michigan University talked to him about football — he ran in a last-minute touchdown and a two-point conversion to beat his city rivals as a senior — but he’s glad the school instead expanded his baseball opportunities.
“You’re probably going to get hurt at some point playing football in college. I’m glad I was fortunate to play baseball ... I always wanted to play Division-I baseball,” Robinson said.
He didn’t complete his sports management degree at CMU when the pros came calling. After holding his own against top pitchers at the Cape Cod League last summer — a wood-bat league for college players — and hitting .300 as a junior this college season, he felt he was ready.
Robinson leads by example for the rookie-league Ogden club.
“His plate discipline has been outstanding. I can put him in the game late just because I know he’ll give me a quality at-bat — whether it’s a walk, a long at-bat or a base knock,” Rodriguez said. “I have enough confidence with him that he’s going to … battle, he’s going to compete. He can hit the ball anywhere and has the potential to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
The somewhat quiet locker-room presence trusts his talent even as he continues to learn.
“I think I’m just doing a good job of going up there with a clear head right now,” Robinson said. “Just see the ball and hit it, and hopefully it finds a hole.”
He’s hit four doubles and two triples in 17 games this season — a handful of which have glanced high off outfield walls — but the next step in his evolution is consistent extra-base hitting.
Rodriguez says the name of the game at this level is learning to create quality at-bats. Robinson’s doing that, but has raw power the coaches are trying to tap.
Robinson says it will come as he develops his swing through his legs and hits more line drives.
He’s developing in the locker room, too.
“He’s quiet, he handles his business and takes care of his stuff and is a good teammate,” Rodriguez said, “ but he’ll joke around, he’ll get after guys and make fun of guys to loosen up the team. He’s definitely opened up a lot and I love it when he talks back and has fun with everything.
“He’s definitely been part of our success and we’re excited he’s on the team.”