During the 2016 season the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest Class A League came away with their first ever league championship. As the season progressed a Central Michigan University sophomore drafted in June joined the Loons on July 21 and remained with the team for the balance of the season. He played an integral part in attaining the championship although he had been selected in the 33rd round of the 2016 June Draft. In doing so infielder Zach McKinstry may have paved the way for another Central Michigan Chippewa to be picked by the Dodgers in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.
Right fielder Daniel Robinson was selected by the Dodgers in the 29th round of the 2018 draft out of Central Michigan University. In following him during his season with the Ogden Raptors of the rookie level Pioneer League it became clear that he played much like Zach McKinstry. That is, playing all out on every play and working to have a good at bat every time he stepped into the batter’s box.
The 6’3”/215-pound Robinson was born in Detroit and attended high school at Grosse Pointe North High School in his hometown of Grosse Pointe Woods. He attained a first team all-star selection in his senior year of high school before heading off to Central Michigan University.
In his junior year with the Chippewas he posted a triple slash of .300/.410/.410 along with five home runs, 43 runs batted in and 45 runs scored. He played 59 games in each of his three years at CMU.
Robinson, who bats and throws left, finished his junior year on a tear hitting safely in 20 his last 22 games while hitting .430 with four home runs and 22 RBI.
He was not sure if he might be selected in the 2018 draft or whether he would have to return for his senior year at Central Michigan. When his name was not called in the first 25 rounds he pretty much gave up hope of being selected. However, during the 29th round he got the call that he had been picked by the Dodgers.
Delighted to be chosen in the draft and to have the opportunity to play professional baseball and be given a shot at MLB, Robinson still had to sleep on it. He had to consider his other choice of returning to CMU for his senior year.
By morning’s light he had made his decision to pursue a career in professional baseball. The Dodgers seemed to be a good fit, and although Robinson did not consider the Dodgers to be his favorite team, one of his absolute favorite MLB players while attending university was the recently traded Yasiel Puig.
“He’s one of my favorite players, so I followed the Dodgers a lot,” Robinson said. “With them going to the World Series last year, I had a chance to watch them often. They weren’t my favorite team, but I’ve always been a fan, so it’s pretty cool.”
During his college career he played in both the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League and the now equally prestigious Northwoods League, both collegiate summer leagues. He posted a .294 batting average in the Cape Cod League and .275 in the Northwoods League.
Robinson attributes his growth as a player, especially after a slow start to his 2018 college season, to his Chippewa head coach Steve Jaksa. At that time in his 17th year as CMU’s baseball coach, Jaksa not only worked at preparing his players to play the game at its highest level, but also at helping them to mature as young men off the field. That perhaps helps explain why Zach McKinstry and Daniel Robinson have similar perspectives on the game.
“I think coach Jaska did a great job of preparing me to go out every day and give it my all, hustle, take the day one game at a time and handle adversity,” he said. “He taught us to play with heart and do our best to win each game. On the field, that’s how coach Jaksa, and all our coaches, did an excellent job.”
“Off the field, all our coaches encouraged us to do community service. Coach Jaska always talked about the importance of treating people with respect – our peers, classmates and people in the dorms.”
Robinson began his professional career on June 19 with the Ogden Raptors in a match-up with the Orem Owlz. He had one hit in two at bats. On the season he posted a slash line of .332/423/.463. His batting average was the seventh highest in the league while his OBP ranked 4th aided by 32 walks as opposed to 24 strikeouts. He stole 11 bases in 15 attempts. He was held hitless in only 12 of the 57 games he played while posting 20 multi-hit games. He was a model of consistency both in the first and second half and against hitters from both sides of the plate.
Robinson was selected as a mid-season all-star in the 2018 Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star game.
Daniel Robinson will start the 2019 season with the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. He has learned a significant lesson in a game that produces at least a 70 per cent failure rate for most players and he learned it when his 2018 college season started out painfully slow.
“It was more of a slow start than I would have wanted it to be,” Robinson said at the time. “You just have to try not to think about it and focus on the next pitch or next at-bat. Then, when the game is over, just move on to the next game.”
Not only will he enjoy playing at the next level in 2019, but the young outfielder who turned 22 last October will be playing in front of family and friends in Midland as Zach McKinstry did. His home town of Grosse Pointe is about a two-hour drive to Midland while Central Michigan University in Mount Peasant is only one-half hour away.