It's opening day of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball season. Join Scott for a conversation with Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts, along with Dodgers Chaplain (and Talbot Professor) Brandon Cash.
More About Our Guest
Dave Roberts is currently manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, having led the team to the World Series in the last two seasons. He was a successful player for both the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox before becoming the manager of the Dodgers in 2016. He was named National League Manager of the Year in 2016, and was runner-up in 2017.
Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm Scott Rae, your host, dean of faculty, professor of Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University.
Scott Rae: We're here with a very, very special guest, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. We're spring training in Arizona. Dave, thanks so much for being with us after the afternoon game this afternoon. We're also joined by my colleague Brandon Cash, who's been a longtime chaplain for the Dodgers' organization.
Scott Rae: Dave, thank you very much for taking time to be with us and to answer a few questions for us.
Dave Roberts: No, absolutely, Scott. It's a pleasure to sit down and talk about my faith and baseball as well.
Scott Rae: I have to tell you before we get into some of those questions, the president of Biola University, Barry Corey, is a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan. He said, "If you get a chance to sit down with Dave Roberts, you have to ask him about the most famous stolen base in Red Sox history." So tell our listeners a bit. What's he talking about?
Dave Roberts: Well, it's one of those things where you got the Red Sox and the Yankees and just such history and just a bitter rivalry. So I take you back to 2004. The Red Sox, which team I was on, we were down 3-0 to the Yankees. Mariano Rivera, probably the best closer in history, is on the mound. I get summoned out to pinch run, and lead off walk by Kevin Millar. So I get out there and hadn't played in probably eight days. Haven't seen the field.
Scott Rae: Wow.
Dave Roberts: Up until those eight days, there was a lot of preparation, video work, and just preparing for one moment. That was my moment right there. So you rewind about three years prior in my work with Maury Wills, a great mentor of mine when I was with the Dodgers and gearing me for one moment that everyone in the ballpark know that you're going to steal a base, and you can't be afraid to steal that base.
Dave Roberts: As I took the field, Maury Wills was in the forefront of my mind. I really do believe the game honors you and how you prepare and you play and you're a good teammate. And at that moment, that was my moment. Fortunately, I was safe and I scored the tying run. We ended up winning that game in extra innings. We reeled off eight straight wins, did away with the Yankees, and then swept the Cardinals.
Dave Roberts: That was a first World Series championship in 86 years. So for me to be a part of that, it was something special. So I apologize to your good friend.
Brandon Cash: Now, I want to ask something because you were with the Dodgers that season.
Dave Roberts: I was.
Brandon Cash: I don't think a lot of people realize how hard that is on families to be with one team and then to get traded. What was that like?
Dave Roberts: It was tough. I already had one son at that time. He was four years old, and then my wife was eight months pregnant, I think, at that point in time. So you're uprooting everything to move from LA, where you were happy and you were in first place and I'm a Southern California guy, to then be transported to Boston. And it's a whole different deal.
Dave Roberts: So the baseball part of it, the family, and also, we just had to ... I mean, to be quite honest, our faith and just knowing that God had better things for us. So it was something that it worked out great, and I wouldn't have changed a thing, though.
Scott Rae: Is it true that you've never paid for a meal at a Boston restaurant since then?
Dave Roberts: Well, I have paid for a couple meals, but I haven't bought any beers. When I go into a bar, those people are very in tune with what had happened.
Scott Rae: Now, you've made the transition. You obviously had a successful career as a player. You've made the transition now to coach and now to managing and obviously been very successful at that level, too. What was that transition like, going from being on the players' side of the house to coaching and managing?
Dave Roberts: It's been a fun journey. It definitely wasn't my ultimate plan once I retired. I was contemplating just retiring and just spending time with my wife and kids. Had an opportunity to do some TV, some broadcasting, some radio stuff. Took that, and that was a fun opportunity with the Red Sox. And then I got diagnosed with cancer in 2010.
Dave Roberts: As I was going through that, I was working for the Padres as a special assistant. So I kind of got one foot in, dipping my feet in a little bit in baseball, and then just an opportunity to coach, to be a major league coach. And that's kind of where I was jumping in with both feet. So recovered from the Hodgkin's lymphoma, then became a major league coach, and then at that point in time, I knew that I wanted to be in baseball for quite some time.
Scott Rae: You mentioned your family. Tell us a little bit about your family. What I think they'd be particularly interested in is how you've dealt with the challenges of being in baseball for the long term and what challenges that's had for your family life.
Dave Roberts: It's interesting. Well, my wife and I have been together since we were 15 years old. She's been there from the 315 high school baseball games to playing in Jamestown, New York, as a minor league A ball player, and college as well before that. We got married in 1997, so she's used to the grind and understands, and the sacrifices that she's made for me personally, for our family ... And my kids, they know nothing else but the seven and a half, eight months of baseball season. We get to spend essentially every waking moment together in the off season, but it doesn't make it any easier when I have to say goodbye and start spring training.
Dave Roberts: But my son, fortunately for him, he gets to be around more because he's a baseball player and he's a boy. My daughter, to be quite honest, gets the short end of the stick. So I really try to make it a point to make her feel special. She's 14 right now, and they're both amazing kids. They both love Jesus. My son is a senior at Santa Fe Christian in San Diego. My daughter's a freshman there. Son's going to go play baseball at Loyola Marymount.
Scott Rae: Good for him.
Dave Roberts: So we're a tight-knit group. We're a tight-knit group.
Scott Rae: Yeah. Well, it sounds like you've been pretty intentional about making sure that what baseball could do to derail family life is not done with your family.
Dave Roberts: No, and I think that it can, and a lot of people that I've been around, it has derailed families and marriages. But when you work as one unit and ... That's something for me personally, that you're really trying to ... with the faith component in the center of my life, my family's life, and then being a husband, a father, a coach, a manager, and trying to be that same person wherever I go and keep that center wherever I go.
Dave Roberts: But, yeah, my family travels with me at times when we can. Now, as I get older, it's a little bit harder. But it's a constant ... You gotta be, definitely, purposeful in how you do things. Work with a purpose and really just really be clear with your family.
Brandon Cash: Were you guys intentional about Santa Fe Christian and sending [Cole 00:07:14] in there?
Dave Roberts: We were. We were. Where you're going to plant your kids for grade school is a big decision, as any parent knows. So we just felt that our faith is number one in our lives, and then when we took a tour of the campus ... And it's a K-12 school. And when you look at the finished product of some of these kids, some upper-school kids ... And my wife and I just looked at each other and said, "Man, if our kids can grow up and that's the finished product, then we're doing something right."
Dave Roberts: So to be around a Christian family as far as schooling and that community, our kids have thrived. I'm not saying there haven't been trials and obstacles, like any school or any upbringing. But our kids have Jesus at the heart, at the center of their lives, too. So that's a huge win for all of us.
Scott Rae: Dave, tell our listeners a little bit about your own spiritual journey and how you came to your faith in Christ.
Dave Roberts: Man, Scott, it's been a long journey. I think that in 1996, I was saved. Baseball, sports, up until that point was my god. To be quite honest, I just felt that being a good person was sufficient. I was a good person, but I hadn't given my heart to Christ. As the people that I gravitated to in baseball ... There was something different about them. It turns out that they were all believers.
Dave Roberts: Satan was fighting me and trying not to let me go down that path and telling me that I didn't need that, and I was going to give up a whole lot if I gave my life to Christ. Ultimately, I gave my heart and soul to Christ. Then I went through the period of, "Man, I'm on fire and everything's going to be perfect." All those demons that I had and trials were going to be gone. And I quickly learned that wasn't the case.
Dave Roberts: My wife is a believer as well, and so she was very helpful to me and supportive.
Scott Rae: So she had come to faith before you had?
Dave Roberts: That's right, before I did. The thing is, though, is that ... That's the thing, is that you think that things are going to be perfect and there aren't going to be obstacles. And I quickly learned that that's not the case. It's been rocky. It hasn't been perfect, the way I've lived as far as temptations, things that ... Priorities get away, and I don't keep God at my center. I didn't keep God at my center. It's a growth period.
Dave Roberts: I will say that it's taken me a long time to really accept the fact that there's no perfect Christians and everyone has their own individual walk. As long as we're getting closer to God every single day, that's what we strive for. Not to say there's not going to be setbacks. It's not going to be easy. But the more I've learned to surround myself with the right people ... And I do devotionals every day with my pastor. He's one of my best friends. For the last few months, my wife and I have been doing devotionals every day and incorporating my son as well.
Dave Roberts: So just to take that time and be intentional with my time with God and my wife, it's really helped me stay the course. But do I gotta put up fence guards or safeguards around my life? Absolutely.
Scott Rae: Let me follow up on that just a little bit. How would you say your faith has made a difference in your role as a coach and now a manger?
Dave Roberts: Well, as a baseball fan, which I am, as a former player, as a coach where every game means something and it impacts people, my faith plays into this because I work as hard as I can work. I prepare as well as I can prepare. But, at the end of the day, I feel that if I live my life and prepare the way and compete the way that Christ wants me to compete, I'll live with any result.
Dave Roberts: I don't take it lightly in the sense that I don't care as much as the next person, because I do. But I do feel that I'm here for a greater purpose, and I do have a platform to share my faith and to make the men around me better people and see Christ in me. If their time comes that they get to know the Lord, great. I do have a job to do, and that's I work for the Dodgers. But I think that it gives me a really good peace where I have anxiety or stress, frustration, and I put it on God. I really do.
Dave Roberts: That ability helps me survive in a season where there's so much noise outside and scrutiny each day. I just don't know how people under this kind of scrutiny and this pressure would survive without their faith.
Scott Rae: You mentioned earlier some particular challenges that you've had to your faith that have come over the years as you've been a player and now a manager. Could you tell us a little more about that? What are some of the challenges that you face?
Dave Roberts: Well, some of the challenges are when you're struggling, when you're out playing and you're not respecting your wife or just not being the godly man that you should because of the pressure getting to you, the grind of a major league baseball season. Going out to a bar where you put yourself in harm's way, to be quite honest. You surround yourself with teammates or people in the game that, really, there's not a whole lot of good that's going to come from it.
Dave Roberts: You live and learn. I've made mistakes, like we all have. But as I've grown in my faith and just ... It's always kind of ... And my wife, again, my wife, Tricia, has been by my side through everything. It's funny. It's something that I learned about six months ago at this men's retreat. Pastor Keith Jenkins, a good buddy of mine, he just said, "I just want to share something with you. What got you here won't get you there." It's just interesting because, as a player, early in my faith and my walk and as it wasn't as consistent as it should have been or could have been, I was very stubborn. I was very egocentric. I wasn't a good listener. I was not consistent with my time in the Word.
Dave Roberts: So now to be a leader of men, to be the father that I want to be, to be the husband I want to be, to be the Christian, the man of God I want to be, and the leader of my household, all these things that I haven't done that I was surviving to make a life for my family and the way that I thought that I had to perform on the field, and at times, I didn't put my faith at the center of my life. Again, it was baseball. But then, now, as I've grown as a man in my faith and not being intimidated by people who know the Bible more than I do, it just ... I continue to get in the Word and learn more.
Dave Roberts: But all those things that I thought got me to this point, and now I've learned that I've got to do things a different way to get me to the finish line.
Scott Rae: I suspect one of the impacts that your faith has had in your role as a leader in the clubhouse here is the kind of culture that you're trying to create here. What kind of culture are you trying to create in the Dodger organization, and how has your faith impacted that?
Dave Roberts: Well, my faith has impacted the clubhouse because I live my life a certain way. There's no question that I'm a believer. I can quite honestly say I live that the way I should, and I'm bold about that. But I am respectful of the profession and the job that guys have to do. So there's a couple layers: number one, people knowing who I am inside and out, and I am consistent with that, and being open to listening and leading and trying to do things the right way.
Dave Roberts: I think that people see Christ through me, and that's sort of what we want to create in the clubhouse. And then you're talking about things of the gritty, the compete, the preparedness, the work ethic, all those things that you layer in that make you a successful ball club.
Brandon Cash: Now, I've noticed a theme here. You talked about when you're a player and surrounding yourself with the right guys, and then in personal life, surrounding yourself with the right guys. What I've noticed in ... Is this your fourth year?
Dave Roberts: Fourth year.
Brandon Cash: Four years together. You're doing the same thing team-wise, getting the right guys around you that think are going to help foster that culture that you want around here, whether that's the grittiness and the compete or even the character, I think, of the guys around here. That's been one of the big noticeable changes to me, is the change in culture over these years. But you can't make that change on day one.
Dave Roberts: You can't.
Brandon Cash: How has the wisdom of changing that culture over the course of-
Dave Roberts: Yeah, it's interesting, Brandon. Well, as I've been here ... This is my fourth year, and there's been some turnover. Things do take time. So you do want people of character and that have the same beliefs, the same thoughts and goals that I have and the organization has. I do believe that the people that have been here for my tenure are on board and we're thinking alike. Our thoughts are aligned.
Dave Roberts: It just makes the quality of life easier when there's people that you can bet on and you want to go to work with every single day. Scott, we spend eight and a half months together and get ... Call it a dozen days off in this eight and a half months. We're spending more time with each other than our families. So people that you like, you trust, you can count on, that's important.
Dave Roberts: But, as a coach, that role sometimes ... I have to take the mind that as long as they're ours and they play for the Dodgers, we've got to make them as good as we possibly can and love on them as much as we possibly can because my job directly is not to bring in and create a roster. The players that are given to me and the coaches, our job is to teach them.
Brandon Cash: Yeah. Now, this is just a leadership principle. I think there's a character issue here, too. But you are awesome with names. I remember I had Dave in chapel when he coached with the Padres, and then he gets picked up by the Dodgers to be our manager. It wasn't just remembering my name, but it's uncanny how much you remember names and call people by names. I know that's intentional. What's behind that?
Dave Roberts: Thank you, and I wasn't always good at that. I just felt that when somebody knows your ... I can go to a restaurant, and my kids give me a hard time about it all the time because I'll make a point to look at the name tag and call the server by their name because I just think that when you can address someone by their name, it just makes them feel special and important.
Dave Roberts: I know I appreciate it when people remember my name, and I think that when you're a leader and you're around a lot of people who are looking for your attention, then if you can know who they are and say them by name, I think it opens up the dialogue and the trust a little bit more. There are definitely a lot of names for me to remember, and I'm not perfect, but I do try to make a point to remember people's names. And I think it goes a long way.
Scott Rae: It sounds like it's a pretty significant part of that kind of culture that you're talking about.
Brandon Cash: Yeah, and I think it's just reflective of an others-centered attitude. If you have an ego and that's driving things, you're not going to remember people's names.
Dave Roberts: That's right. That's right. I think that's a great point because there's no bigger servant that walked the earth than Jesus Christ, and I kind of pattern my life or my leadership in the sense of being a servant-leader. When you can be the manager of the Dodgers and you can clear off plates for your players and your staff and do things like that and serve your coaches and players, I think that that goes a long way. And then it trickles down where everyone else is incentivized to serve others. When you get a bunch of people that are talented, same mind of winning, and are servers, man, you've got something pretty special.
Scott Rae: A couple more questions, if we might. Tell me, for this year's Dodgers team, what makes you optimistic that you've got a shot at returning to the World Series?
Dave Roberts: That's a good question. Obviously, no one knows, and that's why every season is different. But I believe in the talent. I believe in the organization as far as we're all synced up. We're all on the same page. I trust the process and how we go about things that, in the end, we'll be the last team standing. I can say that I felt the same way the last two years, and unfortunately, we were the second-to-last team standing.
Dave Roberts: But I'm just really convicted that those guys in that room, the coaches, the training staff, the entire organization, the front office, that we're going to bring a championship back to Los Angeles.
Scott Rae: From the way you answered that, it doesn't sound like that it took all that much to get over coming so close the last two years and moving on to this season. Is that true?
Dave Roberts: It's definitely never easy. Obviously, it's never easy to lose a World Series. In '17, it was really tough. We pushed the Astros to game seven, and to lose at home in game seven ... There was no doubt in my mind we were going to win that game. So to come off and lose that one, that was tough. That took a long time. That one still hurts.
Dave Roberts: But, '18, I just felt that the Red Sox were playing better. They were a better team, and we just didn't play our best baseball. Again, when you lose in the World Series, regardless if it's seven games or four games, it's a tough pill to swallow. But with baseball, you gotta get back up, dust yourself off, and do it again. That's why this game, as much as people love this game, not everyone can do it, because it takes a certain level of grit and tenacity and perseverance to keep going.
Scott Rae: Yeah, I can see, especially through the rigors of a very long season with its ups and downs and hurdles that you gotta get over, and then to get that close, I can see where that's a tough one to get by.
Brandon Cash: Just real quick. I don't think the average person realizes ... You've used this word a couple times, but the grind of a baseball season. It's unbelievable. How do you maintain the positivity in the midst of that grind?
Dave Roberts: Well, for me, it's actually pretty easy because that's where the gratitude component comes in. I just feel blessed and honored every day that I get to call this work. People that don't know me, that see me briefly, just don't know how I can sustain it or if it's real, my positivity. But I definitely am relentlessly positive, and my coaches are the same way. We're all very grateful of what we have.
Dave Roberts: So for us to impress that upon our players is very important because baseball is a grind because there's 162 games. We play a six-week spring training. Very few off days, and not just a three-hour game. There's a lot of preparation work that goes into it to prepare for those three hours, so before the game, after the game, and travel and all that stuff that goes with it, that Brandon travels with us at times and understands it.
Dave Roberts: But, again, it's something that I love to do, and I like to exude that every single day I walk into this ballpark.
Scott Rae: One final question. How can our listeners pray for you during this upcoming season?
Dave Roberts: Thank you. Thank you, Scott. I would really love it if our listeners could pray for me to continue to keep Jesus Christ at the center of my life. Pray for boldness. Pray for opportunities to share my faith and remain steadfast.
Scott Rae: Well, this has been really rich. Dave, thank you so much for joining us, taking a few minutes. I know spring training is a very busy time for you, and there's lots of other things going on off the field as well as on the field. So we're very grateful for you taking time with us. We look forward to seeing what comes of this season and wish all the best to you and to the Dodgers for this upcoming season.
Dave Roberts: Thank you, Scott. Thanks for having me.
Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, and to find more episodes, go to biola.edu/thinkbiblically. That's biola.edu/thinkbiblically.
Scott Rae: If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening, and remember, think biblically about everything.