BALTIMORE — Soon after a concussion interrupted his baseball career, Brian Roberts was more concerned with simply living a normal life than returning to the game he loves.
“There were times throughout the process that the future looked so bleak,” the Baltimore Orioles second baseman said Tuesday, hours before he was to play his first major league game in 13 months.
Roberts sustained a concussion while sliding into first base in a game against the Boston Red Sox on May 16, 2011. He had been sidelined before with a concussion, but this one was far more severe.
Burdened with headaches and dizziness, the two-time All-Star wondered if he would ever be able to do many of the simple things that most people take for granted.
“I haven’t started a family yet, I haven’t had kids yet. I have a wife that I want to love and support the rest of my life, and all those things take physical abilities to be able to do,” he said. “Baseball is important and my contract is important, things like that. But I would hope people would understand that was No. 1.”
The symptoms finally subsided, and now, after a lengthy rehabilitation that included a stint in the minor leagues, the 34-year-old Roberts is ready to be a baseball player again.
“A lot of guys with the challenges that Brian’s faced might have packed it in,” Showalter said. “But he loves to play. He loves the game of baseball and loves the Orioles. I wouldn’t deny him the ability to do anything. There’s a little emotional lift for us getting him back. We’ve had a void in the leadoff spot for a while.”
“Just excited to be here, to walk into the locker room, and not just see the guys and feel like you’re one of them again,” he said. “For a long time, I didn’t feel that way and today, I do, finally.”
Over the past year, Roberts spent more time with his doctor than with his teammates. Dr. Micky Collins, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, always had confidence that Roberts would play baseball again.
Well, sort of.
“If I said I didn’t have any doubt, I’d be lying,” Collins said. “There some tough times. But in my gut, I thought this day would come.”
Collins treats thousands of high school students for concussions on a yearly basis, and also provided treatment for Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. But because no two cases are exactly alike, Collins treated Roberts unlike all the rest.
“You’re dealing with the brain, so there are different issues,” Collins said. “You have to measure the individual.”