Drew Robinson, who lost his right eye in a suicide attempt this past year, created the opening day roster for its San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate and may play as soon as tomorrow, when the Sacramento River Cats open their season with a six-game show in his hometown of Las Vegas.
Robinson, 29, signed a minor league deal with the Giants over the winter, six months later he shot himself in the mind. Following a harrowing 20 hours which followed the effort and more than a year of rehab , a late-spring spike in Robinson’s performance during minor league spring training persuaded the Giants to place him one step from the group with the best record in the National League.
“I don’t know whether I will be able to completely explain how excited I am for these next six games, but I know that this is going to be another effective experience, and I am so ready for this,” Robinson told ESPN on Wednesday. “Our game is not even until tomorrow, but I already had a hard time staying asleep last night because of how excited I am for these games and this adventure as a whole.
“After going through the majority of my entire life not fully enjoying what was happening, I will promise that I will be taking in every second of the season with a new comprehension of how special all this is.”
Robinson’s family, friends and doctors will gather at 7:05 p.m. PT Thursday in Las Vegas Ballpark, where Robinson spent a lot of the offseason shooting live batting practice — and then hit his first home run since he started his comeback effort. His job at the stadium, just two miles from the home where his suicide attempt took place, convinced Robinson that his desire to play baseball again could be a fact.
He started the spring playing shortstop, a position that he hadn’t regularly manned in almost a decade, and fought to accommodate its speed. After the Giants moved Robinson to the outfield, where he played with the majority of his 100 matches with all the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals from 2017 to 2019, his comfort returned.
Along with it came offensive production. The worries about left-handed-swinging Robinson’s ability to track pitches with no direct attention were real, but Robinson proved adept at discerning balls and strikes — and safeguarding his gigantic power. He’d rebuilt the rest of his body through a consistent exercise regime, including nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his own 6-foot-1 frame and showing up in minor league camp per shredded 200 lbs.
Difficult contact proved evasive early in spring training, but if Robinson squared balls upward, they jumped to the Arizona skies. The Giants, whose service after the suicide attempt was critical in Robinson’s recovery, were convinced. He was not only a fantastic story. He had been worthy of another shot at returning to the big leagues.
Even making it right back into the minor leagues is magnificent. The final player in the significant leagues with one eye was Pittsburgh pitcher Whammy Douglas, who pulled 47 innings in 1957. The questions about Robinson also went beyond the limits having one eye could put on him.
For decades, the vagaries of baseball had preyed on Robinson — the game’s inherent failures, the up-and-down character of a participant who never really got a toehold on a major league roster. His suicide attempt on April 16, 2020, surprised friends and family, who always had witnessed Robinson as the wisecracking, good-natured life of the celebration.
Four surgeries, including the removal of his eye that was ruined by a bullet, stabilized Robinson physically. Rebuilding him mentally was a far more difficult undertaking, one that continues today through regular treatment, meditation and drugs. It is the foundation that allowed Robinson to rejoin the game that brought him joy and pain — and to apply all he has learned that his family’s anxieties of baseball sending him back to a dark spot could be unfounded.
There were moments this spring that were frustrating, disappointing, problematic, but Robinson’s perseverance won out. And now, with those closest to him there — his parents, his sisters and his best friend, Daiana Anguelova — he will be where he belongs: playing skilled baseball again.