For many of the incoming baseball players to the University of Houston this fall, the path has deviated very little. All have been playing baseball for a very long time now. Some had their baseball season start later than normal because they had to fulfill their obligations to other teams at the school, the basketball team for instance. Some played football in the fall of their senior year, for some of those athletes it was the continuation of playing football every year in high school, for another though, playing football in the fall was something “fun” he decided to do for the season.
Then there is Dalton Roblin, the junior college transfer from Angelina College who will be stepping on to the University campus next month as a member of the Houston Cougars baseball team. Dalton took a different route on his way to this point in his life: He quit the game.
“After my senior year I quit baseball, because I didn’t think I wanted to play it anymore,” says Roblin. Later in the summer though, thanks to boredom and baseball highlights on YouTube, he started seeking out opportunities to catch-on at various junior colleges. Angelina College offered him a timetable and an opportunity, both of which worked for him.
Fast forward to today and the left-hander has two years of junior college baseball behind him, though the second year was limited due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, and he is currently a Cougars signee and in a little over a month he will be in Houston getting down to business.
Dalton Roblin was born and raised in Beaumont. When he started playing t-ball at five or six, he was, like many others that age, playing with both boys and girls and those were kids he would end up being around the rest of his days until he went away to Angelina. During that time he also made his first all-star game at age eight, the first of five straight all-star years. The last all-star season landed him and his team in the state final. Dalton then moved on to junior league and high school baseball at West Brook High School in Beaumont.
After being told he could try out for Angelina, he started losing some weight as he was getting back into some sort of game shape. He says he initially “lost four or five pounds” but once he actually started playing and practicing, he lost over sixty pounds. That matters, Roblin says because it “helped me get noticed, and it made me throw harder.”
In a small sample size, for someone who is not primarily an infielder or batter, Roblin improved his batting average from his freshman to sophomore season by nearly one-hundred points. He gives some credit to maturity, and some credit to a new hitting coach, Michael Barash, who Dalton says, “tweaked some things. He helped me see the ball better and I could find more barrel, more often.”
Coach Barash says, “Dalton is a strong, physical kid who can really drive the baseball. He has a pure left-handed swing with some serious leverage. When I first got to Angelina College, his raw power and strength really stood out. He really bought into our approach as hitters and the results speak for itself.”
On the pitching front, Roblin had a nice freshman year by most any standard. Working predominantly out of the bullpen in relief, Dalton notched a 3.55 ERA and in 33 innings pitched he struck out 48 batters, for a 13.09 strikeout per nine innings average. After the season, Dalton went to work and interestingly, he focused on the head game as much as on the physical game, “The main thing I worked on in the offseason was coming into the game with the mentality that I don’t care what the score is, what the situation is, but I have to get every batter out; nobody gets on, nobody scores.” His coaches wanted him to “have the mentality to come in and shut the door.”
Roblin got noticed by the University of Houston coaching staff at a junior league all-star game in Abilene, where Dalton says he pitched well in limited action. In October of 2019, Roblin committed to the Houston Cougars.
Before the Roadrunners 2020 season was ended prematurely, Dalton had a 3.38 ERA in 5 ⅓ innings pitched, and he had struck out nine. The strikeout per nine innings average increased to 15.19. Dalton and his teammates were hearing about closing and cancellations as the world adapted to what was happening. They were all together when their coaches told them they were finished, at least for the moment. “Everybody’s head just dropped when they told us,” Roblin says. “Our team, we struggled at first, but we had finally put all the pieces together and we were starting to pick up momentum, and then that happened.”
After the season concluded and everyone was back home, Roblin kept working. He would hit a local gym late at night when he had the place to himself. He has an old friend who is a catcher at an NAIA school, and Dalton would throw a bullpen with him to keep the arm active. “I was still doing pretty much everything that I usually do.”
“He grew very quickly within our program and it’s because of his internal drive for greatness that propelled him to the University of Houston,” says Coach Barash. “He will bring energy to the ballpark daily that his teammates will feed off of and it’s a relentless energy people enjoy being around. Take his energy and combine it with his talent and the Cougars got a really good one coming to them.”
Dalton Roblin’s next stop is the University of Houston next month, assuming everything goes according to the plan of the moment. 2020 offers a mixed bag right now when pondering young men like Roblin and their shortened pitching season. They could have benefited from the entire season, gained some strength, maybe even developed new or better pitches. On the other hand, they are reporting to campus fresh and ready to get to work in this, their next chapter. –