Kristian Robinson's baseball epiphany didn't happen after a home run or a great defensive play in the outfield. Instead, it took place off the field during a tournament in Florida. The 18-year-old outfielder describes it as "a funny story," one that took place when one of his coaches called an
Kristian Robinson's baseball epiphany didn't happen after a home run or a great defensive play in the outfield. Instead, it took place off the field during a tournament in Florida. The 18-year-old outfielder describes it as "a funny story," one that took place when one of his coaches called an impromptu meeting in a bathroom.
"He was talking to us about the tournament," Robinson recalled, "and he looked at me and said, 'You, the sky's the limit with you. You have a lot of potential,' and it hit me."
Robinson, a native of the Bahamas who signed a $2.5 million international free agent contract in 2017 with the D-backs, has already worked his way through the Pioneer League and is off to a fast start with short-season Hillsboro in the Northwest League.
He's the No. 5 prospect in the D-backs system, and even with all the success he's had early on, he stays true to himself and lets his work guide him. He's thankful for the experiences baseball has given him, and he's out looking for more.
He said playing in front of nearly 5,000 raucous fans during the Hops' home opener June 21 was one of those new experiences.
"I was like, 'Wow.' It was definitely different than what I'm used to," Robinson said.
In 10 games, he's hitting .359 with an OPS of .906. He drove in a game-high three runs in Monday's 13-4 win over the Vancouver Canadians, the Blue Jays' short-season affiliate.
At five years old, Robinson started baseball in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. He said his father signed up, and it turned out he was a natural. Coaches wanted to move him up levels because of his ability, but Kristian's father balked at the idea and wanted to keep him regimented in the program. In a world where that's almost unthinkable, it seems to have worked well in this case.
Another bat-and-ball game, cricket, is the national sport of the Bahamas, and he said he played a lot of baseball on cricket grounds growing up. He has always been a baseball player, though, and didn't really pick up his nation's official sport.
"I never really understood what it was about," Robinson said, "but it looked pretty fun."
Instead, Robinson stayed the course and eventually played for the MAXD Sports Academy in his native Nassau. There he said days were split between academics and athletics -- the morning was spent studying, and the afternoon was on the field. He said it made for long days, but once he had that seemingly odd interaction with his coach in a Florida stadium bathroom, he knew baseball was for him.
He also tries his best to promote baseball on the islands, and he said he went back to his former youth league and threw out the first pitch at their opening ceremonies. He talks to kids about his life playing professional baseball, but mostly just ends up fielding the typical questions youngsters have, and he loves it.
"I try to do my best at giving advice when it's wanted," Robinson said. "Sometimes the questions make me think, 'Oh, I never thought of it that way.'"
There are a few Bahamians working their way through the Minors, and another one is also in the D-backs system. Jazz Chisholm, the top D-backs prospect, plays for Double-A Jackson. Robinson said he takes great pride in where he's from, and said he's happy people are noticing the rise of Bahamian ballplayers.
"My host family and I were talking about that one night," he said. "It's a sign of respect. What are the chances of people talking about a Bahamian baseball player? It's very rare for a Bahamian to play baseball in the States, and I appreciate that."
In briefSpokane starts hot:
The Spokane Indians, a Rangers affiliate, has been red-hot to start the first half. They lead the entire NWL at 9-2, and through Monday's play, they were the only team left undefeated at home at 4-0. They also just got a boost in their pitching staff as six of the Rangers' Draft picks, including third-rounder Justin Slaten
, were assigned to the club Monday.Labour flexing early on
: Salem-Keizer's Franklin Labour
has homered five times in 44 at-bats to lead the league through June 24. He's also the league leader in total bases (31) and OPS (1.072). He hit a dinger in three consecutive games to start the season, and he's hitting .429 against left-handed pitching.
Billy Gates is a contributor to MiLB.com.