Roberts was the son of a U.S. Marine and a Japanese mother. He was born in Japan but lived in North San Diego County from the age of 12. In high school, he played baseball, of course. He also played quarterback on the Rancho Buena Vista High School football team.
He attended UCLA but continues to live close to home. He lives in nearby Carlsbad, California.
Dave was not drafted out of Rancho Buena Vista High School, where he was a three-sport star.
But in 1993, the Indians drafted him following his junior season at UCLA. He opted not to sign, instead returning to school for his senior season and earned his history degree.
In 1995, Roberts was sixth in the Florida State League in hitting when he batted .303.
In 1996, he led the California League in stolen bases with 65.
Roberts is a leader, more by example than anything. "I think my greatest strength is that I go out there every day and put everything I have into the game," Dave said. "I leave everything on the field."
He has great makeup and a fine work ethic. He is one of the nicest guys in all of sports.
Dave said he had a problem for a couple of years with not moving up the ladder fast enough. "I saw my peers going past me and getting to the Big Leagues. I thought I was as good as they were, and it was frustrating. Finally, though, I decided to rely on my faith in God. I realized there is only so much I can do. This game is tough enough; if you worry about things out of your control, it makes matters worse."
But realize, Roberts, a former top-notch quarterback in high school and son of a Marine, does not lay down for anyone. "I want to play in the big leagues as much as the next guy. But baseball needs to be put in perspective. It's not going to eat me up."
- In 1999, he played for Team USA in the Pan Am Games.
- Growing up in a military family, it was difficult to put down roots. That probably helped him in the transient world of minor league baseball.
- He was born of a black American father and a Japanese mother. Dave says one of his biggets regrets is that he didn't learn to speak Japanese as a child despite the encouragement of him mother. He did, however, specialize in the study of his African-American roots at UCLA. "I'm a mix of many backgrounds, which is what led to my majoring in history," Roberts said.
- His wife's name is Tricia. They celebrated the birth of daughter Emerson Tyler, September 19, 2004. They also have a son, Cole.
- During one of his short stays with the Indians, he played solid defense, created some havoc on the base paths, and his hard-nosed style of play endeared him to Indian fans, who considered Roberts such a mirror image of Kenny Lofton that they started calling him "Lenny Clofton." Roberts was flattered. "I've had a couple of different nicknames," he said. "But anytime you can be compared to a perennial all-star, it's a compliment."
- Roberts is very giving, and always has been. In 2003, he donated $500 for every stolen base to high school sports programs in the Southern California and San Diego areas. "Sometimes older kids slip through the cracks," said Roberts. "People worry about young kids and the ill, rightfully so, but older kids can get forgotten. With the budget cuts in California, sports won't get the funding they need."
- Roberts has wanted to give back even before he had anything to give back. "I remember when I was 10, watching football games with my Dad, seeing those United Way commercials and thinking that one day I want to do that," he said.
During the off-season before 2004 spring training, Roberts focused on flexibility and being limber, as opposed to strength. "I stretched every day," Dave said. "I did a lot more yoga and pilates. The whole program is to keep me on the field—that's the bottom line. I know I can help the ballclub if I'm on the field." Roberts shared a private yoga instructor with Shawn Green during the winter.
"I always said I would never do something like that, but you have to go with what works," Roberts said. "The idea behind it makes sense. Shawn was talking to me about it and the more I heard, the more I wanted to try. It takes a lot of focus and concentration. The benefits definitely have shown up already. My body is looser, more flexible. When I warm up, I'm not as tight. It's all part of making sure I will be on the field."
PART OF RED SOX MIRACLE COMEBACK
Near the end of Roberts' three-month stay in Boston, Roberts became a major player in the end of "The Curse."
With Boston down by a run and an out away from being swept out of the ALCS by the Yankees, Roberts was sent in as a pinch runner at first base. He immediately stole second off closer Mariano Rivera and moments later scored the tying run.
Roberts' steal is credited with triggering the reversal of history. Boston won that game—and the seven after that— sweeping away the Yankees and Cardinals on their way to their first World Series title since World War I. Roberts "stole the curse" and became a hero in Boston.
David says the truest sign of success is happiness.
Roberts likes to play golf and watch movies. He has two SUVs.
Dave's Favorites: Actor/Actress: Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts; Movie: "Glory." TV Show: MTV Cribs; Music: R&B and Hip-Hop; Food: Mexican; sports team (other than baseball) San Diego Chargers.
Roberts says he learned more about the game from Robbie Alomar than probably anyone else.
In 2008, while recovering from knee surgery, Roberts took on the role of mentor to the young Giants players. Sometimes his lessons offer long-term help, like reminding young infielders of the importance of anticipating certain game situations. Frequently, he'll offer advice about the habits of opposing pitchers to help his teammates be successful at the plate. The veteran Roberts is only too happy to share what he can.
Dave understands the limits of what sports can do at a time like this [coronavirus] in America, and as important as baseball felt in the aftermath of Sept. 11 in 2001, he thinks baseball can matter as much as it ever has if and when the players return to the field. “Of course I want to play,” he said. “I was a player, and a coach. Now I’m a manager. I love our team, I love our game.”
In a country badly wounded by the coronavirus and unemployment and now the racial divide that seems as wide as it ever has in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, as demonstrations from coast to coast have continued through this weekend, Roberts honestly believes that baseball can help. Not heal. Just help.
Roberts is the son of a black father, a Marine. His mother is of Japanese descent. Roberts was born in Okinawa and was a Marine brat as a kid until the family finally settled in San Diego. He has never finished out of first place as manager of the Dodgers since taking over prior to the 2016 season. He helped win the Red Sox a World Series in 2004 with one of the most famous stolen bases in baseball history.
He is also one of the brightest and most decent men in the sport, a person of color and mixed heritage who is someone to listen to about his sport and about race at this time in the country for which his father served as a U.S. Marine.
We had talked the other day about what he is seeing on his television set, in Los Angeles and everywhere, what we’re all seeing. But when we had finished, he called back with a postscript.
“We can’t let this moment pass,” he said. “Good has to come out of this. We have to talk about these things, and by that I mean really talk. But it has to be a different kind of conversation this time when African Americans want to be heard more than ever. I understand that white Americans need to be heard, too. They just need to do more of the listening. Less talking this time and more listening.”
He’s right. The more I’ve gotten to know him over the years, especially since he became manager of the Dodgers, he’s right about a lot of things, not just baseball. “The kind of conversation that we as a country need to have about justice and race,” Roberts said, “I want baseball to get the chance, at least from sports, to help lead a conversation like that.”
Here is Roberts, a baseball voice very much worth listening to as he waits for baseball the way the rest of us do: “I know there are a lot of hard conversations going on, and there should be. I see people trying to educate themselves. But even as we are trying to be better as a country, there’s a group refusing to acknowledge what’s been going on in the country for decades, and centuries. This is about more than not being a racist. This is about being anti-racism.
“My dad talks about Civil Rights and the 1960s. Being the only black man in his battalion and in his high school. Have we made strides? Of course we have. But we need to do more. And more than anything, we need to give our children direction. And ask their generation to do a better job than ours has.” (Lupica - mlb.com - 6/7/2020)
- June 1994: The Tigers drafted Roberts in the 28th round, out of UCLA.
- June 1998: The Indians sent OF Geronimo Berroa to the Tigers for Dave and P Tim Worrell.
- December 2001: The Dodgers sent pitchers Christian Bridenbaugh and Nial Hughes to the Indians to acquire Dave.
- January 2004: Dave signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers was for $975,000 plus incentives.
July 31, 2004: The Red Sox sent OF Henri Stanley to the Dodgers, acquiring Dave Roberts.
December 20, 2004: The Padres sent OF Jay Payton to the Red Sox; acquiring Roberts, INF Ramon Vazquez, P David Pauley, and $2.6 million in cash.
David was thrilled to be with the Padres, seeing is how he grew up in San Diego as a fan of theirs. "You don't think life can get any better (than winning the World Series with the Red Sox), and then it does," Roberts said. "Being a Padre after growing up here watching these guys my entire life, this is where I wanted to be. My hero was Tony Gwynn," said Roberts, whose agent, John Boggs, also represented Gwynn.
"I remember seeing Tony Gwynn in right field and Garry Templeton at shortstop and dreaming. When my Dad was stationed in Hawaii, I watched the Islanders when they were the Padres' Triple-A team. Having the opportunity to play in San Diego is huge. It's like going full circle back to my childhood dreams."
December 2, 2006: Roberts signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Giants.
March 5, 2009: The Giants released Roberts.