Career Lesson from Dodgers’ Manager Dave Roberts

3 Lessons from Roberts' Career

Los Angeles Dodgers Game 5 vs. New York Mets. Getty Images

This ongoing series of articles highlighting the careers of prominent sports figures continues with Dave Roberts. While he is certainly less well known than many of the coaches previously profiled (Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichik, Steve Kerr, Bruce Bochy are examples), he has recently been named manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. This role, in one of America's top media markets, is one of the most visible in all of American sports, yet Roberts comes to the job much less well known than his predecessor Don Mattingly.

As always, the focus of this article is how you can learn lessons from the professionals' experiences. But as Roberts' story is less well known, here is a quick summary of his career, followed by the lessons you can benefit from.

Robert's Playing Career

Dave Roberts played Major League Baseball for ten years. He got the call to the majors at age 27 (relatively late) and functioned as what could be described as a fourth outfielder, never amassing even 500 at-bats in a season. His reputation was a defensive player and speedster on the basepaths, collecting five seasons with more than 30 steals. If you are not old enough to remember Roberts as a player, BaseballReference.com indicates the most similar current major leaguer is journeyman Gregor Blanco. Roberts played for five teams in his career, including for the Dodgers across three seasons, totaling 303 games.

Post-Playing Career

After Roberts retired as a player following the 2008 season, he joined the Boston Red Sox broadcast team for a season as a studio analyst.

He then worked as a first base coach and bench coach for the San Diego Padres.

So what are the lessons to be drawn from Roberts' ascendancy to Dodgers' manager?  Here are a few:

  • One "Big" Moment Can Propel You  What was not included in the description of Roberts' playing career was his signature moment. As described in the Dodgers' press release announcing his hiring: "And he etched his name into Red Sox lore in 2004 with The Steal. Entering Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with his club on the verge of elimination, Roberts pinch-ran for Kevin Millar, stole second base off Mariano Rivera and scored the tying run on Bill Mueller's single. The Red Sox won the game in the 12th inning, beat the Yankees and went on to win their first World Series since 1918."  Did Roberts know that he would be part of baseball history that night?  No. Was he prepared to take advantage of an opportunity? Yes. You never know when your career "moment" might be upon you. So always be ready.
  • You Don't Have to Be High Profile to Gain Experience  Roberts worked in relative obscurity for the Padres. The manager who hired him (Bud Black) was fired mid-year in 2015 and Roberts was passed over as the interim manager role was given to another coach. But his varied experience as a player and coach helped him land the job. So even when you feel your own career may have stalled, continue to gain experience and do good work to build your resume. Your experience may help you land the interview and then ...
  • You Can Win the Job in the Interview  Roberts is not a former "great" player. His fame is not going to attract fans. He was not a "hot commodity" from another winning team. But he won the interview. According to Andrew Friedman, "We're extremely excited to bring Dave Roberts on board as the next manager of the Dodgers. We could not have been more impressed with him through this process." You too can win the interview. Be prepared to impress and ask for the job.

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