LP's Robinson using summer to prepare for BYU

2010-07-19T00:00:00Z 2010-07-30T11:39:50Z LP's Robinson using summer to prepare for BYUBeky Beaton - Daily Herald Daily Herald
July 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

When it comes to aspiring college baseball players, there's no rest for the weary.

After an intense high school season, Lone Peak's Dillon Robinson played in the prep state tournament, which, after five games in 11 days, culminated in winning the 5A championship with the Knights.

That would have to be considered kid's play compared to what the Herald's Valley Player of the Year is doing now.

Just one week after dogpiling with his prep teammates at UVU's Brent Brown Ballpark, Robinson reported to his summer team, the Utah Marshalls. This squad draws top talent from five states and this year's version has players headed to 10 different colleges.

On June 9, they started a schedule that includes nearly 60 games in a two-month period, or roughly the equivalent of what a Major League team plays. And, like those of their college or MLB counterparts, many of those contests go nine innings and use wood bats.

It's all in a day's work for Robinson, who will be suiting up for the Cougars this fall and is hoping to earn some time on the diamond in his freshman season.

"Mostly, the (BYU) coaches wanted me to get out and play," Robinson said. "They want me to do everything I can to reach my full potential."

He's also lifting with the Cougars when he can, and on his own when he can't, following a prescribed strength training program four days a week.

Playing every day leaves little time for other individual work, but the Marshalls do one to two hours of batting and fielding practice before every game, which amounts to a dozen or more hours each week.

It's enough to make a person tired, just hearing about it, but despite a summer bout of bronchitis to contend with, Robinson has plowed right on through. And, even with all this, which amounts to a full-time job, the infielder still isn't satisfied.

"I could always be doing more, but I do feel I'm getting better," he said. "Besides improving my overall skills, I'm trying to focus even more on my mental preparation before every game, so I'll have a better approach when I get to BYU."

Robinson is always striving for a perfection he knows he'll never reach, but Marshalls coach Tyson Littlewood has some great perspective to offer on how he's actually doing.

"He's a great hitter," the coach said. "He's got a lot of power even with a wood bat, and he's got power to all fields, which is rare at this age. It's his best asset."

Robinson brings more to the team than just a big bat, however.

"His fielding is where he's improved the most since last year," Littlewood said. "We have four corner infielders on this team; the other guys are going to Kentucky and Utah, with one underclassman.

"I need to give them all experience, so I move Dillon around according to our needs," he continued. "He's even played some right field for us. Really, with his skills, I could put him about anywhere and we'd be fine. I like to keep him in the lineup."

Robinson himself attributes some of his on-field improvement to playing shortstop this year for Lone Peak, a position he isn't likely to staff in college.

"After playing 30 games at short last year, I could really tell the difference," the player said. "It really improved my range and my reaction time and I thank coach (Mike) La Hargoue for putting me there."

Robinson generally mans first and third for the Marshalls and has always played wherever his coach at the time wanted him, but thinks his best opportunity with the Cougars may come at the hot corner.

"It's a little scary out there at times, but I like the thrill of playing there," he said. "Your heart stops when something gets hit hard at you, but you get it back, and there's a great sense of satisfaction when you're able to make a play."

The full range of his fielding repertoire was on display during a Marshalls game last Wednesday, when he made several diving catches, including a spectacular backhand grab, and still caught the runners at first with a rifle arm.

"He can throw, and he'll be able to play wherever he's needed at the next level," Littlewood said. "As his body has matured, he's gotten stronger in all aspects of the game. He works so hard.

"Plus, he's a great kid who's really humble and down-to-earth. You just don't find that in a kid with his talent," he said.

The coach gave another example of his hitting prowess by referencing a home run derby on July 3 at Spring Mobile Ballpark in Salt Lake City. "He must have hit 15 in two or three rounds with a metal bat," Littleton said.

"I think he'll be a very, very good player at the next level and even beyond," he added. "Everybody goes through tough times in baseball, but he has the confidence to bounce back. He has a pure swing and isn't one-dimensional at the plate like many his age.

"Especially as he gets older and gets more experience with a wood bat, his power numbers will go up," Littlewood predicted.

As if to prove the point, Robinson sent a towering hit over the fence in center-right at Gates Field in Kearns Saturday night -- with a wood bat -- to ice a 6-2 victory for the Marshalls over the Bucks, the younger developmental team he played with last year.

The Marshalls still have 16 games left on their schedule. After that, he'll have a whole two weeks off before reporting to BYU.

"I'm excited," he said. "It will be good. As a competitor, I'm going to work as hard as I can and try to earn a spot. I plan to really get after it and prove to the coaches that I deserve to be in the lineup every day."

Robinson knows, though, that there's a little more to it than that.

"I'll have to earn the respect of my teammates," he added. "And, I'll have to learn how to balance the demands of my school work with what baseball's going to require."

He's relishing the challenge, however - which is among the characteristics that have helped him earn the success he's known so far.

"I've been really blessed to know since my sophomore year that I would be a Cougar," he said. "It seemed forever away then, but now it's finally here. I'm ready to take my chances and make the most of it."

Beky Beaton can be reached at bbeaton@heraldextra.com.

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