Mom cherishes Robertson's Rays debut

Mom cherishes Robertson's Rays debut

ST. PETERSBURG -- Daniel Robertson made his Major League Debut at Tropicana Field on April 4, and his mother, Julie, was there to enjoy the moment.

"That meant the world," the Rays utility man said. "I knew if one person was going to be down here no matter what time I called her, or when it was, [it would be her]."

Julie actually arrived early from Upland, Calif., to celebrate Daniel's birthday on March 22 -- and she stayed, and stayed.

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"It's kind of like I had planned on going home, and it was hard not to notice that he was still there [on the team]," Julie said. "Typically, by Daniel's birthday, he's been sent back to the Minor Leagues to get ready for the season. Watching him in the Major League environment was amazing. The fact my son was still in the equation was going to be good enough for me; I was enjoying every second of it."

Eventually, Julie wanted more information about her son's fate.

"I had asked him, 'Are they talking to you? Are they saying anything?'" Julie said. "And he was like, 'No, Mom, they're just kind of walking by me. They don't even look at me. I just keep showing up for work. I figure they'll tell me when they tell me.'"

Daniel Robertson called up

Julie -- or "Coach Julie" -- and her late husband, Don, helped fuel their son's passion for the game through their participation. They coached, worked with the different leagues in which he played and shuffled him around for travel games. Don even got Daniel started with a hitting coach, former Major Leaguer Matt Luke, to help him understand the basics. Julie often picked up Daniel at school and drove 40 miles in heavy traffic to see Luke. Daniel would do his homework along the way.

Daniel learned, and so did his mother.

"Quiet body, fast hands," Julie said. "Listening to Matt and other coaches, I've always been able to break down the foundation of the swing."

Daniel Robertson (left, with mother Julie) while playing for the Triple-A Durham Bulls. (MLB.com)

Speaking of break down, that's exactly what Julie did when she got the news that Daniel had made the Opening Day roster.

"I got the news [the day before Opening Day in the morning] -- so thankful they didn't wait until the afternoon to tell him," Julie said. "I was pacing around my hotel room. I'd already eaten and worked out. Then my phone rings, it's Daniel, then the reception went out.

"Once we got connected, he tried to fake me out a little bit, but there was so much excitement in his voice, I knew. Now he's telling me he's made the 25-man roster."

Robertson on making the team

Julie noted that she heard a broadcaster once say that if you're in the Major Leagues for even one game, you're always a Major Leaguer.

"Even if it's a one-day gig, they can't take that away from you," Julie said.

"You always see your little boy as a little boy," Julie said. "And now he's in the Major Leagues. I started to cry. I started to jump up and down. I do a lot of jumping up and down."

Robertson's first career hit

Nobody is more appreciative of Julie's efforts than Daniel.

"I just remember when I played travel ball, I felt like there were tournaments every weekend," Daniel said. "Vegas, Arizona, and then we'd fly to Florida or Colorado. ... At the time, I didn't really realize it, but as I look back, I was so fortunate that my family afforded me those opportunities."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.