'Tatman' finds he has a following in Taiwan
D-backs third baseman enjoying experience with wife, daughter
TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- Ryan Roberts looked out the bus window as the team left Xinzhuang Stadium in Taipei City on the Major Leaguers' first day of workouts in preparation for the 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series.
He saw a sign and did a double-take. Could it be? No way. But seriously, could it? He looked again. Sure enough, there it was.
The "Tatman" sign, the clever alteration of the Batman symbol that the well-inked Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman took on in his conversion from bench inhabitant to everyday player to postseason and cult hero, had followed him thousands of miles overseas.
The gesture from a single fan in Taiwan, like Roberts' sudden rise to Major League prominence and popularity, floored him.
"Once we came here and started playing, I knew that Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson and everybody that we were coming here with was going to be a big name," Roberts said. "For people to know my name and to see someone with a Tatman sign was very shocking, to be honest with you.
"A couple of years ago, I didn't think anyone knew who I was. And all of a sudden, I'm over here and people have a Tatman sign. It was amazing to see."
The MLB All-Stars won Games 1 and 2 of the exhibition series against the Chinese Taipei national team, and will play their next game in the city of Taichung on Friday. Game 3, played at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, will air on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on MLB.TV and MLB Network. Games 4 and 5, played at Chengcing Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung, will air on MLB.TV and MLB Network at 5 p.m. ET on Saturday and at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The Taiwan experience has been rewarding for Roberts, who brought along his wife, Kim, and their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Hudsyn. The long flight over the Pacific wasn't the easiest for the little girl, who slept for only 20 minutes of the 14 1/2-hour flight, but she's caught up on her sleep and the Roberts family is having a blast exploring a new country.
"We want to give her the experience because we've never traveled before, so for her to have pictures when she's older is pretty neat," Kim Roberts said of Hudsyn. "All the photos and videos we're taking are just priceless. And she's been a trooper through all of it. She's been great."
Meanwhile, Hudsyn's daddy has been pretty good, too.
After hitting .197 in 66 at-bats over 36 games for the D-backs in 2010, Roberts, who had played sparingly for the Blue Jays and Rangers after being drafted by Toronto in 2003, figured it might be time to move on to another franchise in hopes of reviving a stalled career.
But something clicked. Kirk Gibson took over the helm in Arizona, saw something he liked in Roberts, and leaned on him more and more as the year progressed and the young D-backs became the surprise team of the National League.
Roberts finished the season with the third-base position locked down and career numbers: 18 home runs, 65 RBIs, 66 walks, 18 stolen bases, 86 runs scored and 25 doubles. That Tatman moniker arrived and stuck. In the last week of the season, he hit a walk-off grand slam in the 10th inning against the Dodgers. And in Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, he struck again, belting another grand slam to put them ahead for good in the game that evened up the series and sent it back to Milwaukee.
The D-backs lost that game and were eliminated, but the seeds were sown for future success -- success Roberts plans on being a major part of.
It's all been a whirlwind, but he's enjoying the ride.
"It's really crazy, to be honest," Roberts said. "Looking back, the first few things I thought of ... one, I didn't think I'd be in Arizona very much longer, especially after 2010, not getting playing time and being up and down [to and from the Minor Leagues]. I just thought maybe I should be somewhere else.
"But to get the chance to play every day and to have success as a team and get to experience a postseason, I mean, everything we did last year as a team was special and very memorable for me and a first in a lot of ways. The mentality we had was perfect."
He said he hopes it continues in 2012, and he has a few plans for how he'll make it happen.
"Obviously you want to improve numbers and your goals -- you have certain goals you want to accomplish, especially long-term goals, but on the whole, my offseason workouts and everything I did last offseason, I'm going to do the same thing," Roberts said. "I felt great all year long. I never felt fatigued. I didn't get hurt. So I really don't want to change a whole lot.
"And I know as a team, we don't want to change a lot, either."