KoK Interview with RHP-Lee Roberts

Bryan Lee Roberts was born January 24, 1986 in Madrid, Spain. He was raised in Hermosa Beach, California and attended Mira Costa High School. Lee was signed by the Royals this summer as an undrafted free agent after completing his college career at Loyola Marymount University. In his senior season with the LMU Lions, Lee posted a 7-2 record and 3.58 ERA in 103 innings of work. He struck out 91 while walking only 27 and went at least 6.0 innings in 11 or his 13 starts. Now a member of the Arizona League Royals, Lee has made eight relief appearances for the team and is making the most of his opportunity. In 12.0 innings pitched, he has a 1.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 5.50 K/BB. His latest appearance came on July 27th when he pitched a clean third of an inning. Standing 6’0” and weighing 185 lbs, the right handed pitcher has had quite a journey to get to professional baseball. 

Without further delay, lets get on to the questions.

First thing I am curious about is how long were you in Spain before you and your family ended up in California?

Well, my parents were both in the Air Force and stationed over in Madrid, where I was born. I was only there for about 2 years and then my parents were done with their stint and we came back to the U. S.

As a kid growing up, what was your favorite sport and who was your favorite MLB team? Did you have any opinion of the Kansas City Royals as a kid?

Growing up in southern California, I was always a fan of the Dodgers. I went to a lot of games when I was younger and so it was only natural, I suppose, to root for them. I’ve also always liked the Red Sox. They have such a fun history and I hated the Yankees cause everyone else loved them!

I never really had an opinion of the Royals, not being around the team. Who would have thought that the team that I knew the least about would be the organization that I would be playing for! It’s funny how that works.

A bit of trivia, 5 players from Mira Costa HS have been drafted by ML teams including LHP-Joel Garber, who was the Astros 1st round pick in 1992, but none of them reached the major league level. While you were in HS, how aware were you of past Mira Costa players and teams and what kind of baseball tradition does the school have?

There were actually only two players that I remember hearing about. The first was a pitcher David Johnson, who I believe is still playing in Triple-A. The other was a big hitter named Ryan Brincat, who I think is done playing but I’m not sure. I knew that there has been some good talent that has gone through Mira Costa, but I knew that it was never a real powerhouse in baseball. I am proud, though, to keep a baseball tradition going and to represent MCHS as I work my way up.

As a senior in high school you earned All-Bay League honors and walked on to the LMU baseball team when you went to college. You were cut as a freshman and wound up pitching for a local club team. Your sophomore season you tried again to make the LMU roster and this time succeeded. Most people would probably have stopped playing after getting cut, for you what was the driving force behind trying out again?

Well when I was cut freshman year, there was a week of just heartbreak. The one big constant in my life was all of the sudden gone. As fate would have it, one of my buddies and I talked about forming an LMU club team so that we could keep playing ball. My constant was back in my life and I was the Vice President of the club team. It was at that point where I decided that I was going to work as hard as I could to get better so that I could make the Varsity team the next year. The club competition was not that great, but I treated each hitter like they were division one hitters and pitched to them as competitively as I could. It was a pretty fun time in my life and I learned the lesson of not letting a little adversity get in the way of your dreams.

Your career at LMU saw you pitch as a reliever your first 2 years, then your junior season you made 6 starts in addition to 17 relief appearances. What difficulties did you experience as you transitioned from starter in high school, to reliever at LMU, and then back to a starter for your senior season?

I think the biggest difficulty that I had switching between roles was more on the mental aspect of those roles. I liked the idea of knowing when I was going to pitch because then you can develop a rhythm and a routine before each and every start. Once I was moved into the role of relief, I had to be ready every game to come in and throw. I felt back at home when I was moved to starter my senior year; back into my comfortable routine. It’s kind of funny because KC now has me back into the late inning relieving role. So it should be fun to see how many different roles I can get under my belt here!

Statistically you took a huge step forward in your senior season at LMU. What factor(s) played into the improvement, or are the statistics misleading?

The biggest factor was the change in the coaching philosophy. Coach Jason Gill was appointed as LMU’s head coach and with him he brought the idea of actually learning the game. What I learned from him and my pitching coach, Drew Keehne, was how to utilize all my pitches. They allowed me to learn the pitching game and gave me the confidence so that I could call my own game and pitch to my strengths.

I have a few questions as we transition from your youth to your professional career as a member of the Royals organization. My first transitional question, how did you get into baseball?

I have always had a passion for the game. I have been batting the ball around since I was two or three years old. I have been playing ever since I was five years old.

Which person has most influenced your career and why?

My mom was the one who wanted to put me into baseball. She has been there since day one and has been to literally almost all of my games. She has taking countless days off work and sacrificed a lot just to come and support me. It actually feels a bit weird not having her in the stands right now! My step-dad also played a huge role in my career, as he was the main person who taught me how to pitch. He told me to throw strikes from day one and taught me how to throw my curveball, which is the exact same one I am throwing right now.

Do you have any rituals or superstitions you follow before, during, or after you pitch in a game?

During the game, I groom the mound the same way every time before I throw my first warm-up pitch. However, I would say that my biggest superstition would be my facial hair. Even in college I would have a certain style going and as long as I was throwing well, it would stay. My senior year in college I was rocking the full handle bars. As for right now, I have a solo mustache that may or may not be waxed up like Clay Zavada’s!

What is your typical pre-game routine?

Right now we have practice before the game and usually between practice and the game I do about 15-20 min of a core workout to start getting my core activated. Other than that, I play catch before the game and then sit in the pen and wait for the call.

Earlier this spring, you did an interview with the Los Angeles Loyolan and were asked who your favorite MLB player was. Your response was Greg Maddux. Aside from being one of the best pitchers of all time, why is Maddux your favorite player?

Maddux is my favorite pitcher because not only did he know the game, probably better than anyone, but he knew how to use that knowledge to effectively dominate in his years in the bigs. I try to model myself after him in that I like to try and pick a hitter’s swing apart by watching their practice swings. Not only was he brilliant, but he also was not a power pitcher. He hit his spots with all his pitches and knew what he was going to throw a hitter in his 3rd time facing him in the game. It is for all these reasons that he is my favorite.

Now that Maddux has retired, who is your favorite active ML player?

You can’t really go wrong with Lincecum or Greinke right now! haha

Obviously you had a solid senior season at LMU and you finished the year in the top 10 of the West Coast Conference in shutouts (1st), complete games (1st), innings pitched (1st), strikeouts (2nd), wins (5th), ERA (8th). With your success, prior to the draft this June did you have contact with any ML organization and did you think you had a chance to get drafted?

I had talked to the Chicago White Sox, the Spanish National Team, and a professional team in the Italian league. As far as thinking I was going to get drafted, I honestly was not sure. Towards the end of my college season, I had people telling me that I should be getting picked up but I also knew that very few people actually get drafted. I just kept an open mind.

How did the process play out for you once you were an undrafted free agent and what went into signing your contract with the Royals?

I was actually called in the 48th round and told that if nobody else picked me, I would have a job waiting for me. Not more than two days after the draft, I was on a plane out to Arizona to sign my contract and to start playing in the AZL.

Now that you are part of the Royals organization, what are your expectations for advancement to the next level of the system? Has the team given you any indication of what you need to accomplish in the Arizona League before you move up to the next level?

I am not sure of what the team is going to do with me the rest of the summer. I know that I am just going to keep going out there and giving it my best. Hopefully after spring training I can make my way into one of the A class teams, if not sooner.

Along those lines, what does the team have you working on to hone your craft and skills as a pitcher?

My coaches really like my consistency and ability to locate my pitches. They are having me work on my core to gain some added stabilization to help hone in my accuracy a bit more while at the same time picking up my velocity a little bit.

What pitches do you throw, and are you working to develop anything new?

I throw a 4-seam fastball, 2-seam/sinker mostly, a 12/6 curve, changeup, and a slider. The slider, however, is being dropped by my coaches and changing into a cutter.

What have been some of the difficulties of going from college to professional baseball for you?

The main difficulty of going from college to pro ball is that I am back in the pen and there are quite a few pitchers on the team, especially when some rehab guys are in town. The innings are so few and far between that it can get frustrating only throwing one inning here and there. That’s why when you are given the opportunity to pitch you have to make the best of it to try to get yourself some more innings.

The Royals have you pitching out of the bullpen, but in your college career you were both a starter and reliever. Which role do you prefer?

I really like the consistency of starting. It is great to know what day you are actually throwing so you can prepare yourself properly. However, I love coming out of the pen because typically when I’m coming in, there is some big situations and I love the adrenaline rush. There is no better feeling than coming in with the game on the line with the tying and winning runners on base and no outs and getting out of the inning without a run scored. It is in those situations that you can really feel like you have helped the team.

What does your typical daily routine consist of?

Typically I get up around 10:30-11:00am and have some breakfast. I’ll maybe watch a little TV or go online and see how my buddies are doing. We head to the field around 2pm and grab some lunch. After lunch we usually have a little over an hour before we have to be outside for practice so a few of the guys and myself play some cards, which has the potential to get really heated if someone is caught cheating. From there we stretch, throw lightly, and practice for a couple hours and get our conditioning in. After practice we come back in, I usually go do some extra core work with our trainer and then shower, change, and head off to the game. When I get back to the apartment, my roommates and I play computer games until we pass out!

Naturally we all hope you have a long and successful career with the Royals, but after you are done with baseball, do you plan on putting your Mechanical Engineering degree to use or do you plan on doing something else?

Umm, I would like to use my degree and go into aerospace like Northrop Grumman or Boeing. But my mom has told me that she thinks that I am not going to be using my degree and will probably go into coaching somewhere. I can see both of those scenarios happening so we will see.

I have a couple of questions that some of KoK’s most loyal readers are dying to know. First, if you have one, what is your favorite rain delay memory?

Haha. Probably last summer when I was playing for the St. Cloud Riverbats in the Northwoods league. It was pouring rain and the situation started off nice and relaxed with a game of bowling where you set up some cups infront of both dugouts and each team tries to roll the ball and knock some cups down. Well from there it escalated quickly cause the other team quickly started the “Upside Down Running Man” where a guy put his pants on like a shirt with his shoes on his feet and his jersey on his legs so he looked like he was doing a handstand. He started sprinting across the outfield, I was dying. Then we did the “Bobsled Team” five of us sat down like we were in a bobsled and all leaned left and right like we were taking the turns of a bobsled course. Finally to cap it all off, one of our players goes out on the grass infront of the dugout a little bit past first base. He starts sprinting and head first slides about 40 feet and crashes through our cup bowling pins and just gets covered in mud. The game ended up being cancelled.

Who is the prankster on the AZL Royals and what is the best prank you have witnessed or have been a part of since the season began?

There are some pretty funny guys on the team. Aside from my stache, the most fun thing was probably when a few of us had a full on NERF gun war in Target. It was savage, there were a couple civilians who were tagged but they thought it was pretty funny.

This one comes courtesy of my 5 year old son Justin. It’s time for the Hot Dog Race at Kauffman Stadium, are you picking Ketchup, Mustard, or Relish to win?

I have some insider information that Mustard hasn’t been training very hard because his cat passed away and he is inconsolable. Relish has just plain gotten too old. So I would have to pick Ketchup to take the gold.

Lee, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. You are cemented as Kings of Kauffman’s favorite minor league player and rest assured we will be following your career closely as it progresses.

In closing, I want to thank Dynasty Athlete Representation for getting me in touch with Lee so the above interview could take place. To learn more about Dynasty Athlete Representation, click here.

Topics: AL Central, AZL Royals, Baseball, Dynasty Athlete Representation, Kansas City Royals, KC, Lee Roberts, MLB

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