ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - Tampa Bay Rays rookie infielder Daniel Robertson made his major league debut against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night. He went 0 for 3 as designated hitter, curbing what's been an exciting week after getting the word that he made the team on Saturday.
Daniel is soaking in his major league moment, sharing it with his mother Julie, who's been his biggest fan ever since third grade when he said he was going to be a major leaguer. After batting practice, he got the chance for a last-minute hug before his first start.
"Hey sweetie, I'm fine,” beamed his proud mother Julie.
His father coached him along with way, but lost his battle with cancer four years ago. After hearing he made the team, Daniel played back a voicemail from his dad that he's kept for this moment.
"Even when you say it to me now, it makes me tear up,” said Julie Hoover Robertson. "I've done this road and people are like, ‘Wow, you go a lot.’ But I say I'm trying to kind of be there for me and his dad, to have somebody in the stands. And every time I go, I feel his dad is with me and if I'm here, I feel I'm close to him, if that makes sense."
"She's excited,” offered Daniel. "She's my biggest supporter. She's just been loving this opportunity, as well as my brother and a couple of buddies that are out here to experience this opportunity with me. It's just an exciting time for all of us, but I'm just trying to control the emotions."
Rays manager Kevin Cash understands the importance of family in a time like this.
"He called me in and asked if my mom was still in town,” Daniel recalled. "I said, ‘Yeah she's still here. We've just been kind of waiting around to see what's going to happen.’ He goes, ‘Alright, she can stick around a little longer.’"
Daniel is getting his chance because Rays shortstop Matt Duffy is still recovering from injury. What Daniel brings is similar to the guy he was traded for -- Ben Zobrist.
"Just a high-character guy,” said Daniel. "A good teammate. I think a guy that can go out there and play any position that's needed. Just come out here and hit the ball like I know how to. Like I've hit my whole life."
It was just a few years ago the Rays outfield Kevin Kiermaier was going through a similar situation in trying to break in the major leagues and he has first-hand advice for the Rays’ newest rookie.
"It's one of those things that, hey man, congrats on being here, but you have to come here and we expect you to perform well,” said Kiermaier. "Don't put too much pressure on you, but hey, you're here for a reason, so let’s go back it up."
His mom is here all week watching and she believes his dad is watching too.
"There hasn't been a down moment yet,” added Julie. "It keeps getting better, better, and better."