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Robida Earns His Stripes at Shortstop
Nate Robida worked his way into becoming the starting shortstop for the Valley Regional baseball squad last year. Now a senior, Nate was named captain for the Warriors based on the leadership that he displayed in his junior campaign. (Photo courtesy of Nate Robida )
Nate Robida has put together a strong career with the Valley Regional baseball team that’s seen him take on a more prominent role each season. Nate stepped up as a leader for the Warriors in his junior season last spring, while helping the squad notch its first victory in the Class M State Tournament in nine years. Nate was then named a senior captain for Valley heading into his final year of high school.
It was an important moment for Nate when the Warriors picked up their first win in states in nearly a decade. Getting selected as a captain gave the shortstop a big boost on a personal level, but posting a playoff victory will stick with Nate for a long time. Nate knows that it also means a lot to the program.
“Being named captain would be that personal pinnacle for me. I would say that winning our first states’ game in nine years was a great experience, too,” says Nate. “We had a good season last year. It’s not a huge thing to some people, but it was big for us. It broke the curse, I guess.”
Nate made a pretty seamless transition into his captain’s role. During his junior year, Nate showed himself as a leader by helping Valley’s underclassmen when they needed it and being more vocal in order to rally his teammates. As a result, Nate got the attention of Head Coach Brian Drinkard.
“Last year, I just decided just to step it up and be a better teammate. I also put a lot of work in during the offseason to get the shortstop spot. I worked my way up the lineup,” Nate says. “I think the support of the seniors helped. They are still my good friends, and they gave me the opportunity to lead. Coach Drinkard saw that. He’s seen my work through the years, and that’s why he gave me the captain’s spot this year.”
Nate is a versatile fielder who’s able to shift around the diamond to best suit the needs of his team. Nate played second base during his freshman year, then moved to left field in his sophomore season. Last year, Nate took over as Valley’s starting shortstop.
“I’ve always wanted to be a shortstop. That was my goal in the beginning. I had to work on getting to the ball faster, getting the throws down, and the double plays down,” Nate says. “The space that you are required to cover as a shortstop is more than the space required at second base. That’s the most difficult thing to overcome. The throw is much longer, and you have to make it quicker. There’s some growth required to play that position.”
While Nate has shuffled around a bit in the field, he’s maintained the same approach at the plate. Nate focuses on making contact and driving the ball from gap to gap. A lefty hitter who throws right-handed, Nate posted a .344 batting average last season.
“I’ve been a No. 2 or 3 hitter for Valley the past couple of years. I don’t hit bombs every at-bat. I’m a contact hitter. I try to limit my strikeouts. Most strikes I see, I try to hit, and I’m not too picky about where the ball comes into the zone,” says Nate, who lives in Chester. “I would say that right-center field is where my sweet spot is. I focus on staying level on my swing, pushing through the ball, not rolling over, and letting the ball travel if it’s outside. There are a bunch of things that factor into it.”
Nate gained most of his baseball knowledge from his father Gene Robida, who is an assistant coach at Valley. Nate has been playing baseball for quite a long time, and his dad has been alongside him nearly every step of the way.
“I’ve been playing ever since I can remember. My dad was my Little League coach with the Chester Dodgers. I also played all through elementary school and middle school, and then right on into high school,” Nate says. “I have to thank my dad for being my coach all these years. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing baseball. I wouldn’t be where I’m at in baseball without him.”
Coach Drinkard appreciates the skillset that Nate brings to the table. Drinkard isn’t afraid to shift players around and use his entire roster in order to gain a competitive advantage. So, having a flexible fielder like Nate who never gives away an at-bat can give Drinkard a favorable matchup at any point in a game.
“Nate has been a varsity starter since his sophomore year. He’s a strong player who understands the game and can play just about any position. He’s an above-average hitter when he’s locked in,” says Drinkard. “Nate is a three-season baseball player. He plays AAU baseball in the summer and fall, and that experience shows on the field. He is a captain this season, and I believe he was ready to step up and fill that role.”
Nate is hoping that the Warriors will get a shot to take the field this year, but he’s also prepared to receive the bad news. In the meantime, Nate is staying connected with his teammates and aiming to be ready just in case a spring season does take place.
“I still hope we have a season, not just for me, but for the rest of the seniors,” Nate says. “In my opinion, this was going to be one of the best teams in my four years at Valley. The juniors and sophomores last year got a lot of experience, and we have a promising class of freshmen. They were all ready to go out and work hard. I hope we can get out there this season.”