September 27th of any year isn’t usually a meaningful day during an Orioles season but in 2010 it would be the beginning of something quite tragic. After second baseman Brian Roberts struck out in the 9th inning of that meaningless game he sulked back to the dugout, and out of frustration thumped himself in the head with his bat. Players do this frequently when they screw up but for Brian Roberts this would usher in a year of more pain and more frustration than what striking out can ever cause.
Things seemed like they were getting better when he returned the following season only to endure another concussion while sliding headfirst into first base. For the next year we would be without the signature bright grin we have come to know Brian Roberts for. Over the next year he would endure some things that no one should have to go through and would be tough for just about anyone.
The term “concussion like symptoms” does not begin to convey what Roberts has had to go through. Simply being in public presented a problem for him because he would get dizzy if things moved to quickly around him. In an interview with Outside The Lines, Roberts described his time dealing with the injury as “lonely, a very dark time.” He continued by saying, “there’s times where these things can take you to some really dark places. Where you sit in a room and you don’t know what’s up, what’s down.”
Roberts’ particular challenge was with tracking movement and reacting to it. Clearly as a baseball player this is half the battle, whether you are trying to hit the ball or field it. He described a time shortly after his second concussion (in a span of eight months), where he couldn’t even watch the game from the dugout without getting a severe headache and feeling tired because he couldn’t keep up with the ball when it was hit or thrown. At this point he was worried if he would ever to be able to live a pain free life again, let alone begin playing baseball again.
Roberts began seeing a concussion specialist who created a specific plan for Roberts which combined immense amounts of physical as well as mental rest with simple drills that simulated scenarios on the baseball field that would progress to fully fledged activity and practice. For Roberts this was tough to deal with. The hardest parts he said were “wondering what people were thinking, (and) going out and doing things I have been doing my whole life but five hours later ending up on the couch with a screaming headache,” but most of all he said, “not being able to do what I love to do and that’s play the game of baseball.”
Seeing Brian Roberts return last night was an incredible moment. He got a standing ovation from the Oriole faithful, and deservedly so. It was one of those moments in sports where you almost get teary eyed. To see someone come back from depths of despair to going 3-4 with an RBI in his first major league game in over a year. Now that is something special. Who knows if he will play as well as he ever did. It doesn’t matter though because he has beaten all the odds and proved all the doubters (including me) wrong.