Two years in a row, manager Dave Roberts and his Los Angeles Dodgers team had to watch another team celebrate winning a World Series championship on their home field.
It was painful, and it still stings even after winning the World Series in 2020 and breaking a 32-year championship drought for the franchise, he said. It’s the lessons that those players and coaches learned after those losses that paid dividends last season.
“What we learned was we’re resilient,” Roberts said while on the “Get in the Game Podcast” earlier this year. “That we can pick ourselves back up and try to accomplish that quest again the next year.”
For the fifth time in the past six seasons, all under Roberts, he has the Dodgers competing in the National League Championship Series. They’re going to need to be resilient this year if they’re going to make it back to the World Series for the fourth time in Roberts’ tenure. L.A. is sitting in a 2-0 deficit to the Atlanta Braves with the series shifting back to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Tuesday night.
The Dodgers won 106 games during the regular season, tied for the most in franchise history along with Roberts’ 2019 squad. While most teams would be willing to trade their roster and payroll for L.A.’s, this season hasn’t been easy for the Dodgers. Their 106 wins were outdone by their division-rival San Francisco Giants winning 107, which meant the Dodgers had to play a one-game playoff against the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals without ace Clayton Kershaw and All-Star first baseman Max Muncy, both of whom were lost to injuries late in the season.
Win and move on, or lose and see their season end, just like that.
It took a Chris Taylor walk-off home run to outlast the Cardinals, 3-1, then it took all five games and a full-fledged bullpen effort to knock off the Giants in the NL Division Series.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 15, 2021
Needless to say, Roberts feels his team is battle-tested.
“It’s a quiet clubhouse,” Roberts said on the podcast. “Baseball players are unique in the sense that they can run this marathon of a season and get to the pinnacle and still have that in them to do it again the next year, and potentially the next year.”
Perhaps they take on the identity of their manager, who opened up on “Get in the Game” about a battle he faced himself just 11 years ago.
Working as a special assistant for the San Diego Padres shortly after his playing career ended, Roberts was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a rare, yet aggressive form of cancer. When it was detected, it was already in Stage 2.
“They said if it had been a couple months later, it could’ve been Stage 3, Stage 4, and then it’s in your blood and you’ve got a different issue,” he said.
Once he learned that it was cancer, he was prepared to fight it. He even continued to work for the Padres while receiving treatments. He approached it with this same resilience he preaches to his team.
“Even after all this, I would do it again,” Roberts said. “I think my faith got me through it emotionally and mentally. The doctors were amazing. I just really believe that my faith got me through it.”
The main reason, he shared, was that his “parents came to know the Lord” through that experience. Roberts described that as “a huge win for me personally.”
“I don’t wish it upon anyone, but I felt like it happened for a reason,” he said. “I came out on the other side and I have a story to tell.”
He’s relied on his faith and experiences to cultivate a culture of serving inside the Dodgers clubhouse. Win or lose, there’s one thing Roberts is sure of — they’ll do it as a team and rely on each other.
“When you can look around the clubhouse and you have a bunch of people that want to serve each other, I think it makes you stronger,” Roberts said. “As humans, it’s always easy to look internal and do for yourself and be selfish. But when you look out for the well-being of others, it just makes you a whole person.”
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