SARASOTA, Fla. -- Frank Robinson is supposed to be neutral, he says. In his job as Major League Baseball’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Development, Robinson shouldn’t root for one team.
His orange polo shirt gave him away.
On Monday morning, the 78-year-old Robinson talked to the team he’s most closely connected with, the Orioles. In 1966, Robinson won the Triple Crown with 49 home runs, 122 RBIs and a .316 batting average, arguably the greatest offensive year in the history of the franchise.
That year, the Orioles won their first World Series.
For years, the Hall of Famer didn’t wear that shirt. Now that the Orioles are a better team, he feels differently.
“The last couple of years, I broke it out and wear it now because I’m very proud of what this team did,” Robinson said. “They’ve really come a long way.”
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Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter invited him to spring training, and he was happy to do so.
“I’m very proud of this team. They brought back the pride in the Orioles. They brought back a lot of good times for us old timers, and it’s just great to see,” Robinson said.
Robinson played for the Orioles in just six of his 21 major league seasons. He later coached, managed and was a front office executive for the team. Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982 on the first ballot, and in 2012, was immortalized with a statue in the left field stands.
Robinson likes Showalter’s style of managing and is a big fan of Duquette as an executive.
“[Showalter] knows what he’s doing, and he does everything the way it should be done, the right way. That doesn’t mean it always turns out right, but he does things the right way, and the players believe in him, and he has full control of it,” Robinson said.
Showalter and Duquette have done a good job at making the past players feel welcome.
"I think it started with Buck. His first year. He started having things done with numbers and names of players, statues, in the clubhouse and down here. Making the players understand and appreciate the past and who helped build this organization into what it used to be. I think it might have helped some. And then Dan came along and the two of them working together, I think they've done a great job as far as including past players,” Robinson said.
He splits his time between New York for his MLB job and his Los Angeles home, but Baltimore is where his heart is.
“I’m certainly an Oriole through and through. This is the place I had the greatest team success and the greatest individual success of my career right here. And it wasn’t just what happened on the field. It was a great relationship and feeling with the city and organization. And I was very proud of that,” Robinson said.