Roberts steals spotlight again

D.J. Fenner floats a shot over a Fresno State defender on Saturday.

D.J. Fenner floats a shot over a Fresno State defender on Saturday.

RENO — It was the stolen base heard around the world.

Down 3 games to 0 in the ALCS and on the brink of extending one of the longest championship droughts in professional sports history, Dave Roberts was Boston’s last hope. The trade-deadline acquisition pinch ran in the ninth inning against baseball’s best closer, Mariano Rivera. With Bill Mueller at the plate, Roberts broke for second after multiple pickoff attempts, swiping the bag to put the Red Sox two bases away from tying the game.

Mueller smacked a 1-1 pitch into the outfield to score Roberts and the rest was history. The Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time since 1918. And it was Roberts’ steal in the ninth inning of Game 4 that changed the course of the series against the rival Yankees.

With Tim Wakefield’s Game 5 dominance, Curt Schilling’s bloody sock in Game 6, and Johnny Damon and David Ortiz providing the power in Game 7 of the ALCS — Boston’s fate was scripted better than Hollywood.

“It’s something that the group of guys that we had in 2004, it was a special group,” Roberts said. “Obviously, down 3-0, we had our backs against the wall against to the Yankees. It was a special bond that we talked a little bit about with the players to overcome those odds. We play the game to win championships. For me to play 10 years in the big leagues and to walk away, to be world champion in 2004, obviously, it’s something you don’t take lightly.”

Roberts returned to Reno for the first time since the 1993 season when UCLA played Nevada at Peccole Park. The 10-year major league vet was Thursday’s 33rd annual Bobby Dolan Baseball Dinner keynote speaker at the Reno Ballroom.

“I remember we won a game and I had four hits that game. It was a nice to go out on a bang,” Roberts said. “I will always have fond memories because it was the last college season I played. It’s been great. The people here from the university’s baseball program from Reno are super, super special.”

Twelve years later, Roberts became the Dodgers skipper and led his former team to a division title despite injuries plaguing the team and resulting in many variations of the starting lineup in the course of the season. The Dodgers, without ace Clayton Kershaw, still managed to hold the lead in the West over their rival, the Giants.

Roberts spoke to the Nevada baseball team before its biggest fundraising event of the year, advising T.J. Bruce’s club to believe in the game and never stop learning.

“It was just an opportunity for me to talk about how to play the game and trusting the whole process,” Roberts said. “The team has goals to go to a championship and challenging the players on how to get from here, right now, to Omaha (College World Series). I talked about grit, passion and purpose. Those were the three words that I expanded on.”

Bruce, who coached at UCLA before coming to Nevada two years ago, knew Roberts when he coached at San Diego and wanted the 2016 National League Manager of the Year to come back to the Silver State.

“Sometimes when I talk to him, I can’t get everything out even though we have a relationship before this,” said Bruce, a die-hard Dodgers fan.

Nevada, which advanced to the Mountain West Conference Tournament’s championship game last year, hits the field next month when it takes on Sam Houston State.


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