By Kary Booher for KSDK Sports
ST. LOUIS - You want to just hug Shane Robinson, right? Just walk up to him and get your big paws around him. You know, for being the reason why baseball is the best sport, hands down.
OK. Maybe not Robinson all by himself is the reason. But lil' guys that are 5-foot-nothin', 100-and-nothin' and yet have a heart the size of the Gateway Arch.
No way an NFL or NBA team puts him on the roster. Not built like a freight train, nor as towering as the Empire State building.
But on Friday night, the lil' guy didn't just help the St. Louis Cardinals win the National League pennant; he flat influenced the outcome of Game 6 in a 9-0 rout of the Los Angeles Dodgers, rattling likely Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw and later rattling Busch Stadium itself.
And to think that just two years ago, Robinson's career was in real jeopardy.
Guess who had the last laugh. Nine days after standing off in a corner as a champagne celebration from the division title carried on - I remember it; I was asking Robinson about the bench guys' potential impact in a seven-game series -Robinson was firmly in the middle of Friday's.
Out on the field in the euphoria of post-game, Robinson also got bum-rushed by media.
It was his second-inning single, and then dancing off the first-base bag, that seemed to chip at Kershaw's focus. Two wild pitches followed. And though the inning didn't produce a run, the next inning led to a 39-pitch inning for the lefty and a decisive, four-run uprising - capped by Robinson's two-run double.
"I kind of let him think about me a little, just kind of get in his head a little bit if I could," Robinson said of his leads off first base. "I know he has a good, quick move, so I was trying not to get picked off. I knew he was going to try to do it, but I was getting in his head that there was a possibility I could do it."
Leadoff man Matt Carpenter called Robinson's second-inning single, "that was a kind of a gut-punch for them, and a big momentum for us and we were able to run with it."
Credit manager Mike Matheny for benching struggling center fielder Jon Jay and installing Robinson, who had a key pinch home run in Game 4 and whose right-handed bat allowed the Cardinals not to over-load lefty-vs.lefty match-ups - a weakness all season.
Asked what winning the National League pennant meant, Robinson was right on cue, too.
"It means a lot. I love my team. They've been supportive of me all year long and told me, 'Hey, always be ready. We look for you to get the job done when called upon,'" said Robinson, a fifth-round draft pick in 2006.
In July 2011, Robinson walked into the Double-A Springfield clubhouse, surprising many. Only three months earlier while playing outfield at Triple-A Memphis, he collided with left fielder Andrew Brown going after a fly ball. In reality, it was a train wreck. Robinson suffered a broken cheekbone and a broken left index finger, and underwent surgery to have two metal plates inserted into his cheek.
And it all came months after St. Louis outrighted Robinson off its 40-man roster, a move that essentially means that the club has more pressing needs and sees you as just another farmhand, even if as valuable depth in the high minor leagues.
For parents who for years have kneeled down to tell their kids to play like Cal Ripken or Chris Carpenter, Robinson offers a terrific lesson, too: It doesn't matter how big you are. It's the size of your heart.
"Even the year before that I had a dislocated shoulder, so I wasn't sure of what was going to happen with my career," Robinson said before Friday's game. "But I think it was more of a humbling experience than anything, just kind of knocking me down a few notches and making me realize that nothing is guaranteed in this game and to be thankful every day I get to play it."
Kary Booher, Sunday Sports Editor of the News-Leader, can be reached at 836-1180 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He's on Twitter at @karybooherNL.