When I visited recently with the three Roberts brothers one thing kept coming up: They made it clear that the support and encouragement from their parents enabled them to excel at whatever they tried.
On Monday, Ashton Roberts will play in the Arkansas All-Star Baseball Game in Fayetteville at Baum Stadium, and next year he will be playing college baseball at Crowder Junior College in Missouri.
He is the youngest of the three children of Pat and Debra Roberts. His oldest brother, Jon Chris Roberts, graduated in 2004 and his other brother, Colby, graduated in 2009. All three earned All-State honors and played in Arkansas All-Star games (Ashton and Colby in baseball and Jon Chris in football). This will not be Ashton's first time to play at Baum stadium, where the Razorbacks play. Ashton played on the 2009 Benton Panthers baseball team that earned a state championship, along with Colby. In fact, I remember when Colby came in to pitch and the bases were loaded with no outs; Colby was able to get things under control, but the last pitch of the inning was hit long into the outfield.
I was listening on the radio and my heart sank until Ashton made the catch to end Searcy's last chance to score with the bases loaded. I said at the time, "If one Roberts' brother doesn't get you out, then the other one will." Not only did Colby Roberts pitch that state championship game against Searcy in 2009, but last year he was part of the Crowder team that made the Junior College World Series. Next year Colby will be playing for James Madison University in Virginia, and currently he is playing summer ball in Virginia, where he was selected player of the week over several players who played for SEC teams during the spring.
The press release noted, “The Player of the Week is Colby Roberts of the Harrisonburg Turks. Roberts, a James Madison product, has helped the Turks to seven wins in the first nine games of the season with 12 hits in 32 at bats for a .375 average. Roberts also has two doubles and one triple so far this summer.” Colby graduated in 2009 and played in the All-Star game that year. Older brother Jon Chris earned All-State honors in the fall of 2003. He played in the All-Star Football Game in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
Jon Chris played receiver for the Panthers in 2003. In that season the Panthers won the conference and earned a No. 1 playoff seed. Jon Chris had 1,297 total yards during the season, including 217 yards on 13 receptions and three touchdowns against Lake Hamilton. Currently he is serving in the Air Force at Beale Air Force Base in California and will deploy in the near future to Afghanistan. Jon Chris loves to talk about his girls, wife Carmen and daughter Zowie.
Jon Chris said, "My dad probably had the biggest influence on me as a teen. The talks we had on the way to school each morning before I started driving were what shaped me into who I am today. My father is a very wise Christian man, and a good husband to my mother, and I respect him.
"He would watch game films with me and tell me what different steps I could have taken. He showed me how to come off the ball and fake out defenders with my eyes alone."
Colby said, "My family always does their best to support me and make it to as many games as they can. My father was a great encourager growing up and even now. He wanted us to do what made us happy and be successful at whatever we do.
"If we started anything, we finished it period.
"He's his son's No. 1 fan, and there is no doubt who my brothers, and I hear when he is in the stands. Sometimes I would be down after a bad game at Crowder Junior College, and I would call to fill him in on stats. When he knew I didn't play well, he always would remind me, 'Baseball is all about reps, you will get more opportunities just take advantage of those. Get 'em next time; think line drives.'"
Ashton said, "My parents make it to every single game that they can. My dad played a huge part of my baseball development, and he really helped me in learning the game of baseball. He taught me to be a student of the game and to learn from the mistakes I've made in each game.
"Some coaches that have had an impact on me over the years are coach Pryor, coach Roseberry, coach Davis, coach Ben Hickman and certainly coach Mark Balisterri. Coach Pryor was my tournament baseball coach for four years and helped me become the baseball player I am today. His passion for the game and his attitude toward the game has rubbed off on me."
The Benton Panther chapter of the Roberts boys life has come to a close, but don’t be surprised if you see them down at the games rooting for their Panthers.
Everette Hatcher is the president of Little Rock Broom Works. Everette and his wife, Jill, live in Alexander and have four children and two grandchildren.