Robinson hangs up spikes, begins next chapter in his life

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Kerry Robinson remains in peak physical condition, which is why he has no doubt he could still be a very productive professional baseball player.

But the former Southeast Missouri State standout, who was released by the Boston Red Sox organization a month ago, is simply tired of the minor-league grind.

So Robinson, who had originally entertained thoughts of hooking up with another organization, told me a few days ago that he has officially decided to end his baseball career at age 33.

"I called my agent and told him I was done playing," said Robinson, a St. Louis native who is back in his hometown. "I just got frustrated playing in the minors and waiting around for somebody to get hurt so I get called up [to the majors].

"My family wanted me to come home. I'm happy with my decision."

The always-personable Robinson, who has a wife and three young girls, certainly had his share of baseball highlights after completing his eligibility at Southeast in 1995 with an all-Ohio Valley Conference season.

A 34th-round draft choice by his hometown Cardinals, Robinson spent the next few years in the minor leagues with various organizations, earning late call-ups to the majors in 1998 with the Devil Rays and 1999 with the Reds. He combined for just four at-bats.

The speedy outfielder returned to the Cardinals organization and, from 2001 through 2003, received his most extensive major-league action, playing in at least 114 games and getting at least 181 at-bats for three straight seasons.

Robinson was a solid bench player for the Cardinals, batting no worse than .250, including a high of .285 in 2001. He participated in the playoffs in 2001 and 2002.

It appeared as if perhaps Robinson had finally found a home with the team he grew up rooting for.

But various media reports -- along with the noted book "Three Nights In August" -- chronicled how Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had apparently grown weary of Robinson's public clamoring for more playing time. He was traded to the Padres following the 2003 season.

Looking back on that time with the Cardinals, Robinson told me: "I came in the same year as So Taguchi. He's still there. I wish I would have had that longevity. But it wasn't up to me. I never asked to be traded."

Robinson continued to be a solid major league bench player when given the chance, but he never again received the same opportunities he had with the Cardinals.

He batted a career-high .293 in 92 at-bats with the Padres in 2004, but spent half the season in the minors.

After spending the entire 2005 season in the minors, he played in 18 games for the Royals in 2006, batting .266. But again he spent most of that campaign in Class AAA.

Robinson signed with Boston in the offseason hoping to win a job with the Red Sox, but began the year in Class AAA before being released.

Finally, he said he had enough of the vagabond lifestyle that had him switching cities virtually every year, and often more than once per year.

"It was just time for me to move on," Robinson said.

But he emphasized that he has no regrets regarding a career that saw him finish with a lifetime .267 major league average spanning 735 at-bats, along with an impressive .313 minor league average, covering 3,798 plate appearances.

"I really enjoyed my time playing baseball," Robinson said. "I did the best I could and I'm proud of my career."

Now Robinson, who earned a degree in sports management from Southeast, hopes to embark on an equally fulfilling career.

After being released last month, Robinson has been helping out Southeast's marketing department in various projects as an intern of sorts.

"I think some people thought that I was working for the school, but that's not really true," Robinson said. "They're just kind of helping me learn the ropes with various things, to see if that's maybe the kind of work I want to get into.

"I really want to stay in St. Louis, where my wife and I are both from. I would really like to get back in baseball at the front office level some place. That would be my dream job."

Added Robinson: "I'm just anxious to see what the next stage of my life has to offer."

As somebody who got to be friends with Robinson during his years at Southeast and has stayed in touch with him ever since, I'm certain of one thing: The next stage of his life will offer plenty.

More details were recently released on the season-opening tournament that the Southeast men's basketball team will compete in.

The Chicago Invitational Challenge will also include preseason nationally-ranked Indiana, Atlantic 10 champion Xavier, Illinois State, Kent State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Longwood and Coppin State.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, the Redhawks will play at Xavier on Nov. 10 and at Illinois State on Nov. 14.

Regardless of how the Redhawks fare in those two games, their third tournament contest will be against Coppin State at the Sears Centre in Chicago on Nov. 23.

Southeast will then play either North Carolina-Wilmington or Longwood in Chicago on Nov. 24.

As noted earlier, the Redhawks will receive a nice chunk of change for participating in the tournament, reportedly about $80,000.

That will be in addition to the two actual "guarantee" games Southeast will play, including one at Tulsa. The other is still being worked out, but it will either be at New Mexico State or Bradley.

All told, the Redhawks will pump more than $200,000 into the university's general athletic department revenue with the tournament and the two "guarantee games."

Overall, the entire 2007-08 schedule is close to being set.

I wrote about most of this earlier, but the Redhawks will also play at Louisiana Tech, after hosting that squad last year in the BracketBuster series, and will have a road BracketBuster matchup against an opponent to be determined.

There will be only three home nonconference games -- the same as last season -- including one against Evansville, after Southeast visited the Purple Aces a year ago.

Southeast will also host NAIA Central Methodist, along with another non-Division I team still to be determined after a hoped-for deal with Ball State fell through.

All of the above is, of course, in addition to the Redhawks' 20 OVC games.

This little tidbit should make Southeast men's basketball fans happy, especially ones that were getting concerned because various blog posts had suggested that several returning players were in academic danger.

After final grades from the second semester came back, all but one Southeast player is assured of being eligible for the start of next season.

And that one player -- touted transfer Calvin Williams -- only has to take care of a summer school class that everybody associated with the program seems confident he will get through with ease.

Other players are also taking summer school classes, but by choice and not necessity.

Jess Bolen, in his 41st year as the Plaza Tire Capahas manager, has been nominated for possible induction into the National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame.

Jess has been nominated once before, but here's hoping this time he makes it, because he is certainly highly deserving.

Because of a mix-up, Central High School boys basketball summer camps have not yet made it into the Southeast Missourian's Area Calendar section.

So here's a little information on the first of several camps that Tigers coach Drew Church will conduct this summer.

It will be Monday through Wednesday, with times being 9 a.m. to noon for kindergarten through fourth-graders and 1 to 4 p.m. for fifth- and sixth-graders.

The cost is $50. For more information, call Church at 979-1186, or to register simply show up Monday at Central High School.

The plan is for info on Church's remaining camps to run in upcoming Area Calendar sections.

Jeremy Boyer, the outstanding organist who donates his time performing at Southeast and Capahas baseball games, recently received a neat honor.

Boyer, a Southeast graduate, was invited to play the organ at last Wednesday's Memphis Redbirds game. The Redbirds are the Cardinals' Class AAA minor league affiliate.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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