Semoball

Southeast product Robinson represents Cardinal red in Cape

Kerry Robinson (0) holds a microphone for a fan attending Cardinals Caravan at Osage Center, Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.
Ben Matthews ~ bmatthews@semissourian.com

Kerry Robinson bounded into a media room at Cape Girardeau’s Osage Center and went directly to a mother with two small boys in tow.

Wearing a St. Louis jersey top with uniform number “0” and sporting a grey tam on his head, the now-team scout worked the room at Cardinals Caravan Monday – making sure every child there got what he or she came for – whether it be an autograph, a handshake or a brief conversation with men who may be future Redbird stars.

Asked for an interview, the 46-year old Robinson told this reporter, “I promise I’ll get to you.”

Noticing the boys were shyly holding back, the Southeast Missouri State graduate acted as a facilitator – making sure they met all the active players on hand.

After the last of the fans departed, Robinson turned to me and said, “I’m keeping my promise. Shoot.”

One of the best

“(Kerry) is a giver, a generous guy,” said Mark Hogan, now general manager of the Cape Catfish team and Robinson’s former manager at Southeast in the ‘90s.

“My first year as (SEMO) manager was Kerry’s senior year,” said Hogan, the winningest coach in Southeast history.

“I inherited one of the best all-time players to ever come out of the university.”

The year in question was 1995.

Robinson helped lead Hogan’s squad to a 32-win season and the finals of that year’s Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

Bolen praises his speed

Jess Bolen managed the Hazelwood East H.S. product for about a dozen games while Robinson played for the Capahas.

“I’m proud (Kerry) wore our uniform,” said Bolen, who managed the Capahas 50 years until his retirement in 2016.

“He could fly,” added the 77-year old coaching legend, “but I didn’t have him for very long,” as Bolen noted after St. Louis took Robinson in the 34th round of the major league draft, the slender 6-foot outfielder went directly into the Cardinals’ minor-league system.

Bolen had seen a great deal of Robinson’s play for Southeast, however.

“I called every game he ever played (for SEMO) on the radio,” said Bolen.

“He always had great speed but until his senior year, he wasn’t strong with the bat and didn’t have a good arm.”

Robinson’s final season with Southeast was a breakout year.

“He had a 35-game hit streak in ’95,” recalled Bolen. “(Kerry) must have lifted to get stronger because he became a tough out as a senior.”

Robinson had a magical final season – leading the then-Indians in batting average, runs scored, hits, and stolen bases.

Muench brought Kerry to Cape

While Hogan managed the Spanish Lake, Mo. product in Robinson’s last year at SEMO, Palmer Muench, who skippered Southeast from 1985-1994, is the man who brought the speedster to Cape Girardeau.

“Muench saw me play in an American Legion tournament as a 12th grader,” recalled Robinson, “and he brought me down here.”

“Palmer said he didn’t have scholarship money for me,” added Robinson, “but he guaranteed me a spot on the team.”

LaRussa troubles

Robinson didn’t get a lot of playing time with Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals.

It is said the Hall of Fame manager was not sold on Robinson as a full-time player.

“LaRussa could have used him more,” said Bolen. “It seemed like Kerry only got into afternoon games after the Redbirds played the night before or as a defensive replacement or to pinch-hit.”

“He was coachable and hard-working,” added Bolen, himself a member of multiple halls of fame. “Boy, he could play.”

Robinson bullish on a coming MLB change

Robinson likes the “three-batter minimum” rule that will go into effect this spring in the majors.

“At times the game can be really slow,” said the scout who lives today in the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, Mo.

“We’ve been behind the other sports in pace of play,” Robinson added. “We have to keep our game appealing to kids.”

Perhaps this is why the approachable ex-Cardinal was so solicitous of youngsters the other night at Osage Center.

He’s worried about keeping the attention of kids, who are distracted by many forms of entertainment.

“Anything that makes the game go quicker,” Robinson continued, “I’m for it.”

“(Kerry) seems to be moving up the chain of command with the Cardinals,” said his former manager Hogan.

“(Robinson) is an outstanding evaluator,” he added, “and he seems pointed at upper management and the front office.”

It should be noted Robinson is said to be the inspiration behind the revival of the Cardinals’ powder “victory” blue jerseys – a branding which made its return in 2019.

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