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Conversations with the Herd: Will Robertson

By: Brian Frank


Will Robertson wasted little time showing Bisons fans what he’s capable of at the plate. After drawing a walk in his first plate appearance in his first Triple-A game, he stepped to the plate in the fifth inning on a chilly April day – and drilled a ball 427-feet over the right-center field wall for his first Triple-A home run.


“Cold weather here in Buffalo, you’re just trying to get off to a good start,” Robertson said in a recent interview with the Herd Chronicles. “Obviously you take the home run. But I think everybody in there is wanting to put some good numbers up and help the team win early on in the year. Whatever I can do to do that, that’s what I’m going to do.”


His hot bat hasn’t let up since. He was recently named the Bisons player of the week for their six-game series in downtown Buffalo against the Rochester Red Wings, in which he belted a pair of home runs and posted a 1.504 OPS.


Robertson recently won the Bisons Player of the Week Award. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles


Robertson grew up in central Missouri, about a two hours drive west of St. Louis.


“Growing up I was a big Cardinals fan,” he said. “My great grandpa on my dad’s side listened to every game. Even when it was on TV, he would still listen on the radio. Big Cardinals fan, big (Cardinals radio broadcaster) Mike Shannon fans.”


“Growing up as a Cardinals fan when I did, it was probably the best time a baseball fan could have,” he continued. “The 2004 World Series obviously didn’t go their way, but then came 2006 and 2011 – and they were always in the postseason and making World Series runs. It was fun growing up in that time. Pujols was the best player in all of baseball for those 10 years. I liked Randall Grichuk in high school and then he got to be with the Jays and I got drafted by the Jays. So that was pretty cool.”


After graduating from Fatima High School in Westphalia, Missouri, Robertson attended Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.


“It was both athletics and being a Jesuit school,” he said of his decision to go to Creighton. “There's good values there. I liked the coaching staff, the recruiting coordinator Rich Wallace really dove in and did a lot with me. I liked him a lot. He’s now at UCF (University of Central Florida). He was a huge part of why I committed there.”


Robertson got to play his home games with Creighton at the same stadium where the College World Series is played.


“When they take you on a recruiting visit and say – hey we’re going to go to the field, and then you walk into TD Ameritrade Park (now called Charles Schwab Field Omaha) – that’s a pretty good selling point,” he said.


He ended up starting every game his freshman season, slashing .272/.381/.408.


“The first two weeks were a struggle,” he recalled. “Just the speed and everything like that. But finally having some success and knowing that you belong a little bit and getting that confidence up helped me to take off after that. I’m just thankful they kept me in there for those first two weeks because they were pretty rough. But it was a really big opportunity to be able to play in all those games freshman year.”


After his strong freshman season, Robertson’s numbers improved his sophomore season, when he slashed .333/.412/.641 with 12 home runs. Following his sophomore year, he was invited to play summer ball in the prestigious Cape Cod League. There, he continued his hot hitting, slashing .300/.380/.435 with four home runs for the Cotuit Kettleers.


“I went there not really knowing what to expect and just got to play with a whole bunch of talented guys,” he said. “I would say that’s baseball at its purest form. We played with no lights, so if it was getting dark in the ninth inning they called it. The bleachers weren’t always nice, the playing surface wasn’t always up to MLB standards – but the fans were great, they knew the game of baseball. It was just baseball in its purest form. It was super fun.”


He slashed .311/.408/.599 during his junior season. Creighton won the Big East Tournament and received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where they played in the Corvallis Regional in Oregon.


“I actually played against (current Bisons reliever) Brandon Eisert there,” Robertson said. “He was on the (Oregon State) staff. I didn’t know at the time that we’d end up being teammates.”


“We made it to the championship game, beat Michigan, but then had to beat them again and came up short. Those memories are probably some of the most fun I’ve had on a baseball field.”


Robertson takes his lead after another base hit. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles


Robertson’s eventful summer was only just beginning. While he was on the return flight back to Omaha from the Corvalis Regional, he was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fourth round of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft.


“It was probably better off that it happened that way because I really didn’t have any control over it anyway,” he said. “One of my buddies – I don’t really know how it happened, but I guess a message came through his phone in the air – and he said, ‘Hey, do you want to know where you’re going?’ I said ‘sure.’ And then he told me. So that’s how I found out. Then when we landed my phone just went crazy. It was a very unique situation.”


After signing with the Blue Jays organization, Robertson reported to the Vancouver Canadians, who were the Blue Jays’ Low-A affiliate at the time.


“You’re wanting to do really well right out of the gate,” he said, “but it was a big adjustment period just like college was. Just the way the pitchers pitched. They pitched more inside. You have to have a really sound approach up there. So the adjustment was very big. I think that by the end of it you start kind of being able to handle it a little better.”


Robertson slashed .268/.365/.404 in 61 games during his first professional season. Then, in 2020, when the minor league season was shutdown due to the pandemic, he headed back to Missouri to try to stay ready for whenever baseball resumed.


“I got a hitting cage in my parent’s shed,” he recalled. “They have a shed behind their house. So we had a cage in there. I had a couple buddies that used to pitch in college. They would come out and throw live to me. Just trying to keep as into it as possible because you obviously didn’t know what was going to happen.”


When the minor leagues finally resumed playing in 2021, Robertson again spent the season with the Vancouver Canadiens, who were then the Blue Jays High-A affiliate after minor league restructuring. The Canadians played their home games that season at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro, Oregon, due to the fact the U.S.-Canada border was still closed because of the ongoing pandemic.


“I got hurt early,” he said of the 2021 season. “I tore my UCL in my thumb. I was out nine weeks, so a big chunk of the year. Just coming back and trying to get started again, that was tough but I learned a lot. In 2021 and 2022 I got injured, so those years I feel like I was making strides and then getting injured. That’s always tough.”


Robertson made the jump to the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2022. He slugged 15 home runs that season, 12 at New Hampshire and three at lower levels when he was rehabbing from a knee injury.


“Just keeping everything external, not really trying to dive too deep into mechanics,” he said of his home runs increase. “I’m a big thinker so sometimes I can overthink some stuff. But just keeping it simple and keeping it external allowed me to free up and allowed my power and my athleticism to play a little bit.”


He returned to New Hampshire for the 2023 season and increased his home run production again, blasting 19, while driving in 57 runs.


“It was my first full season of not getting hurt and being able to play it through and work on stuff that I’ve been trying to work on all along,” he said. “So that was big for me last year to play a full season. I feel like I got a lot better with it.”


“I feel like being there for two years I definitely got to be a little more comfortable and be more of a leader. Kind of be one of the ‘older’ guys and being able to help the younger guys. But also, I think, like I said before, just not thinking too much and just going out and playing ball. I think that was something really, really big for me. I’m trying to carry it over here. Not putting too much in the forefront of your brain and just go out there and have fun and play, stay in the present, and whatever happens it will work itself out.”


Robertson’s bat caught fire during the second half of the 2023 season. He slashed .317/.369/.611 with 11 home runs for the Fisher Cats from July 1 through the end of the season.


Robertson currently has a1.413 OPS. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles


After the season was over, he reported to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Surprise Saguaros. His hot hitting continued, and he helped the Saguaros to a league championship, slashing .279/.449/.485 with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 21 games.

Now, he’s beginning the season at Triple-A, where he’s reunited with his manager from his first professional season.


“Casey Candaele was actually my manager back in ’19 (with Vancouver),” Robertson said. He was the best manager you could possibly have coming into your first pro season.”


“Casey is awesome,” he continued. “He’s one of the best manager’s I’ve ever had. Super laid back, knows the game better than anybody. It’s a really fun experience to get him back here again.”


Roberstson is looking forward to continuing to improve in all facets of the game this season.


“I think just building off the second half of last year,” he explained. “Staying external as much as possible. Defensively working on range, working on getting better with arm strength and decision making out there. On the base paths, you know you can always look to run a little more and continue to be aggressive. Try to cut down on the strikeouts a little bit. Try to condense my zone and do as much damage as I can.”


He's also excited about being a part of this year’s Bisons squad.


“I think we have a really good, well rounded team,” he said. “We’ve got guys that can really throw it. The back end of the bullpen is going to be electric. I think from an offensive perspective, you could plug any 13 guys that we have on the team into any spot and I think they’re going to have success. It’s kind of that revolving door of – there’s no letdown. It’s just persistent, continue to get hits and pass the baton to the next guy, because we’re all capable of doing it. I think it’s going to be super fun.”

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