When an athlete works hard, good things usually happen.
Pitcher Matt Robinson brought that punch-the-clock attitude to the Brainerd Blue Thunder this summer and good things have happened. But Robinson didn't just pick up that work ethic; it was something instilled in him long ago.
"I've always worked hard since I was a little kid," Robinson said. "My dad always told me, 'When you're not working hard someone else is.' I think about that all the time so I can't afford to take time off."
So far the hard work is paying dividends for Robinson, a junior who plays at the University of Kentucky and hails from Rapid City, S.D. Robinson owns a 4-1 record with a 2.76 ERA, and a .235 opponent batting average, best among Blue Thunder starters. He leads the Northwoods League with four complete games and two shutouts.
One of Robinson's gems came July 22 when he held the Wisconsin Woodchucks to one run on four hits with seven strikeouts and two walks in a 2-1 complete-game win. Robinson then tossed a seven-inning complete game shutout against the Duluth Huskies July 26 in which he gave up just two hits with nine strikeouts and five walks.
While the numbers are impressive, again it's Robinson's work ethic that's caught the eye of Blue Thunder skipper Steve Abney.
"Matt's work ethic is off the chart," Abney said. "He works like my guys in college work and he does it every day. We put a plan up for the pitchers each day and he goes above and beyond that. You don't have to tell him to get to work."
Robinson's work ethic also matches up nicely with his approach to playing the game.
Hometown: Rapid City, S.D.
College: University of Kentucky
"You should play every game as if it's your last," Robinson said. "I approach each day at the field as if I have to get better every single day because I want to get to the pros. The game of baseball is so fun that I don't know how you couldn't play your hardest every day."
Another thing that has impressed Abney is Robinson's athleticism. Abney said Robinson fields the ball so well that he's one step away from being a position player.
"Being a pitcher, you're closest to the batter so you have to field anything hit near you," Robinson said. "If you can field your position well, that makes you that much more of a danger to the other team."
As the summer has gone on Robinson has found command of four pitches and has been able to keep opposing hitters guessing as to what he'll throw next.
"There's different situations and different pitches for different hitters," said Robinson. "You want to deceive the batter as much as possible so I try and mix it up. I have two different fastballs, a change up and a slider and they're all working well."
The Blue Thunder traveled to Thunder Bay, Ontario, Friday for a two-game series. It's the longest bus trip of the season. But riding on a bus to play baseball is something Robinson is used to as he traveled a lot with his teams in Rapid City.
"I knew coming in that we'd travel a lot," Robinson said. "I just sit back and watch a movie or fall asleep. It's just good being with the guys and it's nice to get a change of scenery. Plus you get to play in some awesome ballparks."
While attendance numbers haven't been huge, Robinson says that given time, Mills Field could be on par with some of the top ballparks in the league. He lists St. Cloud, Madison, La Crosse and Eau Claire as the best places to play.
"We're just starting the program up," Robinson said, "and once you get more fans and attention, Brainerd could be a place for baseball just like those other teams."
TROY GUNDERSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
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