From one of the charter members of the newly reinstated Seattle University baseball team to First Team All-Conference and Student-Athlete of the Year, Nate Roberts (Silverdale, Wash.) looks back on four of the most surprising and exciting years of his life.
Unlike many athletes who wait until junior high or high school to narrow their focus to their sport of choice, baseball was number one from the beginning for Roberts.
“Baseball was the main focus on a young age, since I started playing t-ball when I was five,” remembers Roberts. “I started taking things really seriously when I was 13 years old. My parents said ‘You know, you really have something special.’”
He first took seriously the idea that he could play collegiate baseball near the beginning of his high school career, around his sophomore year.
“My parents were always there to motivate me and give me that push to get to the next level. I always wanted that for myself as well, so they were just an extra boost.”
In the fall of his senior year at Central Kitsap High School, he signed up for a baseball camp but ultimately got a surprise which led him to Seattle U.
“When I was still in high school, I signed up for this camp and had no idea it was a camp for junior college players. But, I went out and played really well in front of [SU head coach] Donny [Harrel] and he was pretty stoked about it, knowing that I was just a senior in high school still.”
And, as they say, the rest is history.
“He wanted to talk to me and a week later, he took me on an unofficial visit, and we toured the campus. That’s when I was like ‘Yeah, I want to come here and play for a DI school.’”
Seattle was close to his hometown of Silverdale, just across Puget Sound, and he was excited about the opportunity to play Division I and help pave the way for the SU baseball program in the 21st century.
Starting in the 2010 season, Seattle U reinstated the baseball program, now at the Division I level, for the first time in over 30 years. The Redhawks had last played an intercollegiate baseball game in 1986 and opened the inaugural season with a two-game series versus Washington State.
“I had no idea what to expect and neither did the 30 other guys,” Roberts said with a knowing laugh. “We just kind of went out there and played. It was definitely a rough year, but it was a huge step for the program and the school. We learned a lot after that season – big learning curve.”
Roberts battled a wrist injury through the spring and summer of 2011, appearing in just under half of the Redhawks’ contests that year, and had to forgo an opportunity to play with the Corvallis Knights summer team in hopes of being physically ready for the 2012 SU season.
The extra recovery time paid off, as he ranked third on the team in runs and hits and tied for second in home runs and RBIs during the 2012 season.
Going into his senior season in 2013, Roberts wanted to simply “go out and play and do my best every game” and make contributions to his team. He had no idea what was in store for him.
He led the Redhawks in hits, doubles, RBIs, and total bases, as well as recording a team-high 20 multiple-hit games and 17 multiple-RBI contests, and received First Team All-Conference honors as voted upon by the Western Athletic Conference’s head coaches.
Roberts expressed with a heart of gratitude that “It’s kind of nice to be rewarded for all the hard work you’ve put in the past four years, especially this year.”
A highlight for Roberts and for the team from the 2013 season was defeating No. 11 Oregon on their home field, at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue, a feat they never would have imagined four years ago. After the team took a 3-2 lead early, Roberts was part of the game-ending double play as the Redhawks clinched the win.
“That was pretty huge for our program. We were all so excited.”
His crazy, exciting senior season was capped off in May 2013 as he received one final unexpected surprise to close his Seattle U career.
At the annual Seattle U Student-Athlete Awards show, Roberts and women’s soccer’s Stephanie Verdoia (Salt Lake City, Utah) were named male and female Student-Athlete of the Year.
“I was pretty surprised. I saw my picture up there and was just like ‘No way. No kidding’. My team was going crazy and when they called my name, I was just ecstatic about it.”
As his career at Seattle U has come to a close, Roberts hopes to continue playing baseball in some capacity before entering the workforce. He also wants to watch his brother play baseball and help him improve his skills.
“I want to watch my brother play [with the West Hills Vipers], because I haven’t really seen him play the past four years, except for a few games here and there. I want to help him get even better than I am and be there for him.”
Looking back over the past four years, Roberts credits his teammates for making his experience what it was. He says the best part of his collegiate career was “all the friendships and memories that I’ve created, especially with my class, but with all the guys I’ve played with each year.”
If he were to give an incoming freshman one piece of advice on making it in college it’s simply this: “To value every friendship and moment you spend with your friends and family. And to make every moment count.”