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Versatility has brought Robertson to the majors

Random thoughts for a Tuesday morning, wondering whatever to Clinte Motley, CIF Southern Section Division I and Masters Meet high jump champion in 1997 out of Alta Loma High School.

In the end, it was Daniel Robertson’sversatility he can play second, shortstop and third equally well as well the outfield — that prompted the Tampa Bay Rays to keep the Upland High School graduate on the opening day Major League Baseball roster.

Robertson, who graduated from Upland in 2013, became the sixth from the school to make the big leagues, and fourth under coach Mike Alonso. He joins the list that includes Jeff Liefer, Chad Moeller, Sean Tracey and Dave Coggin. There was also Rollie Fingers, the Hall of Fame reliever who actually lived in Rancho Cucamonga.

Starting as DH, Robertson got his first hit last Friday in front of family and friends. Mother Julie was in attendance as were brothers Jarrod and Ben in addition to longtime friends Sean Knight, Don Sullivan and Ryan Ponder (with whom he playedLittle League in Upland). Another brother, Steven Holme, could not make last-minute travel arrangements but is eagerly waiting for a reunion.

The Rays opted for Robertson over veteran Nick Franklin, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise for many.

“Early on in camp (manager Kevin) Cash came up to me and said, ‘We know you can swing it, we just want you to go out there and make the routine plays and make us feel comfortable putting you out there,’” Robertson told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I think I did a really good job of that.”

Robertson, acquired from Oakland in 2015, has also won the hearts of Tampa Bay fans with his dedication to his late father Don, who died of lung cancer in September 2013. Each day, he writes on his wrist tape “BYB,” a reminder of his dad telling him “Believe You Belong.”

“I miss him. I know he’s looking down at me. Proud as hell,” Robertson said of his father. “Proud as can be. I’m just trying to make my family as proud as I can be doing what I love.” ...

Jake Knesel knows about winning in football and now hopes he can use that to rebuild the program at Arroyo Valley High School on San Bernardno’s West side. He’s an all-CIF tackle who graduated from Etiwandain 2007 and played at Chaffey College and South Dakota School of Mines.

Knesel, who has coaching experience at Etiwanda,Miller and UplandChristian, was named Hawks’ head coach on March 12. In a few short weeks, he’s been heavily recruiting on campus and making an effort to change the attitude and atmosphere.

Having learned from role models Stephen Bryce at Etiwanda and Robert VanPertz at Upland Christian, Knesel has been preaching discipline, character and enthusiasm to his potential players and attempting to create a mindset “that starts in the weight room.”

Many in the area believe Arroyo Valley has underachieved in its short history. Quietly, coaches know quality players have left the school and district to participate for other program. If Knesel can hold his own, the Hawks could very well be a force in the San Andreas League.

His main goal can be achieved with hard work, making the postseason. Knesel plans to create a “real family atmosphere” with activities that will include a beach trip, movie night on the field and barbecues after practice.

Sounds like a winner. ...

Although the tag as “the best kept secret in all of Southern California” is not necessarily correct, the annual Mt. SAC Relays seemingly battles for recognition every year. It’s a world-class event, featuring some of the finest track and field athletes, but attendance seems to slip every year.

The 59th annual event, the largest of its kind in the country, will have an identity issue. The threeday event starts Thursday but not at its traditional site in Walnut. Due to remodeling of the stadium, the renowned Relays will move down the road about 30 miles to Torrance and El Camino College.

However, meet director Doug Todd is adamant the move will not compromise the quality of the athletes competing or their efforts. … For the longest time, boys gymnastics in Southern California were dominated by teams from Los Angeles and Orange counties. That may no longer be the case, thanks to the effort of Inland Empire Gymnastics Academy, based in San Bernardino.

At the Southern California State Championships last month in Orange County, IEGA scored three state titles and more than 50 medals in individual events. The titles were won by Jared Barlow and Jesse Jizmejian, both from Redlands, in the USAG Level 5 and Matthew Cox of Highland in the USAG JD.

lbrewster@scng.com @LouBrewsterSpts on Twitter

Upland High graduate Daniel Robertson made the Tampa Bay Rays’ opening day roster thanks to his versatility. He started at designated hitter on opening day and got to play in front of family and friends.

BRIAN BLANCO — GETTY IMAGES

Louis Brewster

Columnist

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