March 8, 2011RATTO ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEO
PHOENIX -- Dave Roberts is fully haired again. His energy is back, 100 percent, never a bad day. He coaches every day at first base for the San Diego Padres as though he never took a day off.
But there is a concession he still makes to the Hodgkins lymphoma that was diagnosed last spring training and has apparently been beaten into submission.
My wife stays on me about sunscreen, he said. Sometimes I put it on.
He hadnt applied it yet when he arrived at Phoenix Municipal Stadium Tuesday for the Padres-As game. There were players to monitor, hellos to exchange with a new set of well-wishers, and the standard tasks to throw himself into now that he is back on the field he has missed since 2008.
I feel great, and I love being here, he said in that enthusiastic way that would seem disingenuous if it werent coming from one of the games most genuine people. This is a good group of guys, they listen, they work hard. Its just a joy to be out here.
The last time he was out here, as in uniformed out here, was in the final game of 2008, a 3-1 Giants win over the Dodgers. Roberts, who had been pilloried in San Francisco for having the temerity to sign an overvalued contract offered him, finished his playing career with a single. If someone had a sense of drama, he would have stolen a base to close it all out, but you dont get to set all the details at last call. Indeed, he went to spring training the following year but was released March 5 with a 6.5 million sendoff.
He spent 2009 as an analyst for Red Sox broadcasts before signing on with the Padres as a special assistant in baseball operations helping coach Rich Renteria teach the players the finer points of running the bases. During that spring, he noticed a lump on his neck that . . . well, you know how the story progressed from there. Eight rounds of chemotherapy, loss of hair and energy, the works.
Nevertheless, he muscled the Hodgkins into submission, and when the season ended in that pile of shards you remember with a little too much glee, he took Renterias place as first base coach, and Renteria became Blacks bench coach.
Now this is the point where you snicker and say, Well, he wont have much to do there, and youll probably be right. The Padres pitched and fielded with the best teams in the game, but hit with the best teams in the Southern League, and hit "E" two weeks short of glory.
And yes, Roberts was paying attention.
Heck of a run they had, he said. Is everybody going good over there?
You half wish he meant with a little snide hope not muttered under his breath, but of course that never happened. Cancer survivors tend not to fret about the little slights, and even if Roberts became a figure of fun in San Francisco for daring to hit the end of his career on the Giants watch, he looks forward to returning to The City on July 4.
He may not be noticed because more eyes are likely to be on Mat Latos, Designated Pinata, but the people that matter will know. And when he says, Tell them I said hi, youll know he means it. People who survive a terminal illness tend to mean that a lot.