25 June 2010

Depot Retro: Brian Roberts Interview and Brian's Bracelets

Interview: Brian Roberts, 2b, Baltimore Orioles
Brian Roberts answered some of our questions about his "Brian's Bracelets Program", baseball and what Orioles fans can do to help with this worthy cause. Brian's Bracelets are available exclusively online only at www.briansbracelet.com ($10.00).
brian_roberts_game2CamdenDepot.com: When you were five, you underwent surgery to alleviate a heart condition. How has that experience affected your desire to impact social issues?

Brian Roberts: I spent a lot of time in the hospital after my heart surgery.  I was little but I remember missing the normalcy I had at home.  With Brian's Bracelet Program, and with the help of GameWear, we're helping ensure that kids at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children (UMHC) feel a little more at home.  Even at such a young age, the surgery instilled in me the importance of helping others. 

I'm really proud to have partnered with GameWear for this important Program.  I wear my bracelet all of the time - look for it on my wrist at our next game. 

CD: When people purchase Brian's Bracelets, the money goes toward University of Maryland's Hospital for Children charity fund. In what ways will these donations be used to help patients?

BR: The money from Brian's Bracelets will help fund children's programs that will make kids' stays a little more comfortable.  Funds support programs like the Pet Visitation Program, where specially trained animals visit young patients to cheer them up, and Reach Out and Read, a pediatric practice-based program that gives children access to books early in their lives.  So when you buy a bracelet, you're money is directly impacting how children play and cope during their hospital stays. 

CD: Are there any specific stories you would like to share from your charity work?

BR: There are so many stories really. Every encounter at the Children’s Hospital touches you in a way that’s hard to explain. I’ve been inspired by so many kids and what they’re going through that I honestly can’t single out one story. I guess if I had to give one story, I would say last year when I got together with a bunch of teammates, Baltimore City Police and Fire Departments and the Orioles to give a shopping spree to several needy Baltimore area families at Wal-Mart for the Holidays. I love watching the video tape seeing the reaction of the families when we tell them what they were there for, it was all a surprise. I literally had to cover my ears they were yelling so loud.

CD: That sounds like a wonderful experience - being able to see your impact on the community up close. One fascinating aspect about Brian's Bracelets (and other charities such as Lance Armstrong's "Live Strong" campaign (Lance Armstrong Foundation) or Coach Weis's "Hannah & Friends") is you see physical proof that a community is taking up a cause. How does it feel to see people walking around with the Bracelets, knowing that you've encouraged others to take up this worthy cause?

BR: It's so amazing to see people wearing Brian's Bracelet.  For fans, the Bracelets are a perfect way to stay connected to the game and connected to an important cause at the same time.  Seeing a group of kids wearing the Bracelets makes me proud and happy that the community is coming together to help put smiles on the kids’ faces.

CD: In the future, what plans do you have with University of Maryland Hospital for Children or other charities?

BR: Right now, I'm focused on helping the kids at UMHC.  I will continue to be dedicated to improving the quality of life of seriously ill children through helping provide and fund hospital programs that distract them from their pain and keep their head in the game. In the future, I’ll always be looking out for organizations and charities that I can help in any way. I’ll always enjoy working with kids and promoting the sport of baseball, and I’m sure I’ll continue to come across and be approached by various organizations that I can get involved with.

CD: Well, the "Brian's Bracelets Program" is a wonderful charity and we have no doubt that our readers will join you in supporting the kids at brian_roberts_game1UMCH, if they aren't already. On to baseball -- many of our readers are interested in the progression of a player from draftee to Major Leaguer. Tell us a little about your path from draft day to your first Major League game. What were some of the more difficult hurdles in adjusting to professional ball and developing as player?

BR: Let’s see. 1999 I got drafted. I played about half a season in [LoA Delmarva] in ‘99 and then went to [HiA Frederick]. I began the season in 2000 in [Frederick] where I encountered my first obstacle when I hurt my elbow after the first couple games and sat out 10 weeks. I came back later in the season and did okay, finishing still in [Frederick]. 2001 I started the season in AA [Bowie] for about three weeks, went to AAA [Rochester] for a month and half and got my first call to the Big Leagues at the end of the season and stayed there for a few months. I honestly thought I was going to remain with the Orioles for the 2002 season, but I ended up starting [back in Rochester]. Once you get a taste of the Major Leagues and the competition level, it’s difficult to go back but I just tried to remain focused. Eventually I got called back up in 2002 and played in 40 or so games. The toughest thing was being in competition for playing time with Jerry Hairston who was one of my closest friends. We were constantly pushing each other to improve and internal competition is always good for a team. 

CD: In 2001 you began making the switch from shortstop to second base. You have obviously embraced the switch, but did you question the move at first? What did you have to work on by switching to the other side of the infield and how difficult of a transition was it?

BR: Yea, it was hard at first. I didn’t like it since I played SS my whole life really. I questioned it and was upset at first, but I knew it was best for the team. Turning double plays from other side was one of the most difficult things to learn.

CD: Despite a few hiccups recently, this 2008 Orioles team has been a pleasant surprise and a lot of fun to watch. Can you feel a change in the clubhouse? In the organization?

BR: Yea, I think we can all feel like we’re headed in the right direction. We made some moves for the future and I think we exceeded a lot of expectations this year, while we are still in what some consider a rebuilding stage. I think there’s a positive energy in the clubhouse and that leads to winning games and the fans have been really supportive overall.

CD: It seems like Baltimore is a lot closer to being competitive in the AL East than many in the media indicated at the beginning of the season. Considering the handful of true difference-makers available this upcoming offseason, how would you sell this year's upcoming free agent class on joining the Orioles?

BR: If we can convince the right people at the right position, I definitely think there are some areas we can improve. We could probably use another starting pitcher or two, but for the most part we have a great team for next year and we have to remember [former closer] Chris Ray and [set-up man Danys] Baez will be back from injury and our bullpen is already solid. Offensively, we’ve been able to produce and [Nick] Markakis and [Adam] Jones are only going to continue to develop into All-Star caliber players. I guess I would sell the team on the direction we’re headed, the city itself and the incredible fans. Realistically though, it is a business and some free agents might make financial decisions based on what’s best for them and their families, but I’ll always do what I can to help promote and sell the organization to the players that can help us win games and provide leadership.

brian_roberts_braceletCD: It’s certainly an exciting time to be an Orioles fan. Any final thoughts you would like to share with the fanbase?

BR: I can't stress enough how important it is to help others in need.  The kids at UMHC are really great and by purchasing Brian's Bracelet, you know that you're helping give them the comforts of a normal, healthy lifestyle.  All you have to do is visit www.briansbracelet.com to purchase a bracelet.  Such a simple act really makes a huge impact.

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