Dave Roberts slipped into his new Dodgers jersey for the traditional photo-op, picked up his baseball cap and then squeezed the sides of the bill down to form a slight oval.
“Hope my son forgives me, but I’m going to go old-school,” Roberts said.
Roberts, the old-school player with the new-school front office, made his introduction as the 10th manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers at a news conference Tuesday, hitting all the right notes.
Flanked onstage at the Dodger Stadium Club by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi, Roberts immediately showed the energy and positive outlook that had wowed both the front office and ownership.
“After the first-round interview, it was almost like he had our answer key,” Friedman said.
Added Farhan: “There was no way Dave walked out of that interview not thinking, ‘I totally nailed that.’ Because that’s the way we all felt about it.”
“But to step back and realize it’s much, much bigger than me … would be completely irresponsible of me,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people who paved the way ultimately for me to have this opportunity.
“It goes to the responsibility that I feel as the first minority manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That isn’t taken lightly. It’s something that I’m going to carry with me forever.”
Roberts, 43, has never managed. A former Dodgers outfielder, he spent the past two seasons as the bench coach for the San Diego Padres. Roberts said his managerial style would depend on his personnel.
“I like grit,” he said, choosing a word seldom used around the Dodgers in recent years. “I wasn’t a great baseball player, so I had to do a lot of things and grind and try to create opportunities for myself. I think grit is something I believe in. It’s unrelenting passion and desire for a common goal, and you’re not going to waiver from that.”
Roberts said he would have no trouble with the Dodgers’ sabermetrics-driven front office.
“I’m definitely open to it,” he said. “I welcome it. I think it goes to always getting better. … We have the brightest people in this organization.
“For me to have that at our disposal, it’s special and something I love. I think a lot of people make too much of that. There’s a collaboration. I think that all great organizations in any industry depend on collaboration.”
Said Zaidi: “We were looking for someone open to new ideas and open to that exchange, and I think Dave personifies that intellectual curiosity. He’s been around a lot of different front offices that had different philosophies. Even in the course of our two interviews with him, we sensed that there was going to be a real collaborative process in how we put the team together, how he chose to run the team, and that really excited us about him. There was sort of this positivity and energy to Dave that is really the overriding thing in any conversation you have with him. You feel it in any room he’s in.”
Roberts said he already had reached out to about 16 of the team’s players and planned to spend the day with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Sunday. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez attended Tuesday’s news conference.
Friedman said team farm director Gabe Kapler, believed one of the other three finalists — former Angels’ outfielder Darin Erstad withdrew — would remain with the organization but did not specify in what role.
“I want teachers and I want leaders and guys around me that are going to challenge me,” Roberts said.
Added Friedman: “By and large, Dave is driving that process. More than anything, we are very much on the same page in terms of the type of people we want around. That’s the most important part. Philosophically we are very aligned in terms of the profile of the types of people that we want around every day.”
Roberts grew up in San Diego and graduated from UCLA.
“I went to school here,” he said. “I’m a Southern California guy. I’m a former Dodger, and I understand what it means to wear this uniform. This is my dream job.”
Roberts played for the Dodgers from 2002 to 2004 before being traded to the Red Sox, where he won a World Series.
“It’s come full circle,” he said.
Roberts tugged on his jersey.
“My plan is to not take if off again,” he said.
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