Kramer Robertson was napping in a hotel room in Norfolk, Virginia on May 9 when his phone rang.
Robertson had gone 1-for-4 with a stolen base in the Redbirds’ 6-3 loss at Jacksonville the day before – the 446th minor league appearance for the Cardinals’ fourth round pick in 2017.
Now, his off-day slumber was interrupted by manager Ben Johnson. It was time for Robertson to wake up – his lifelong dream was coming true.
“One of the better phone calls I’ve ever received,” Robertson said.
St. Louis optioned struggling shortstop Paul DeJong to Triple-A and Edmundo Sosa required a few days longer to rehab from a stint on the COVID-19 list. The Cardinals needed Robertson for a series against Baltimore at Busch Stadium.
The 27-year-old from Louisiana State University called friends and family, then boarded a flight to Washington D.C. where he would connect to an overnight St. Louis-bound jet.
It was the first leg of a baseball odyssey.
Delays on the tarmac cost Robertson his redeye and on the eve of his MLB debut he waited in the airport for a morning flight. That night Robertson was running on adrenaline, and he ran the bases in front of 33,649 fans in St. Louis, including his mother Kim Mulkey, LSU’s women’s basketball coach.
The next day Robertson pinch-hit in the eighth inning and recorded an RBI groundout to cap a 10-1 Cardinals’ win. He was optioned back to Memphis following the game.
The whirlwind was only beginning.
On June 3 – 23 days after driving in Brendan Donovan to finish off the Orioles – Robertson got a much different message, one that players on a major league 40-man roster dread.
St. Louis had designated him for assignment.
Every MLB club would have an opportunity to claim Robertson and add him to their 40-man roster. If he was not claimed, he would return to Memphis or be released.
“I wasn’t really familiar with the process, I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “I wasn’t really expecting to get picked up, I was expecting to go back to Triple-A Memphis.”
The Atlanta Braves had other plans.
Robertson was claimed by Atlanta and then optioned to the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Stripers, where he hit for a .300 average with three doubles and a home run in 13 games.
The Stripers finished a weekend series in Nashville and were about to depart for Norfolk when Robertson was awakened by another phone call.
“We had an off-day the next day (June 27), we got back real late at night. I woke up to a phone call that said I had been claimed by the Mets – I didn’t even know that I had been designated (by the Braves).”
Two days later, Robertson was the lead-off hitter for the Syracuse Mets, New York’s Triple-A affiliate. He went 0-for-4 but reached base twice and scored two runs in the Mets’ 10-6 win over Lehigh Valley.
“I haven’t had much consistency, I haven’t been in one location for more than two or three series in a row,” Robertson said.
“As (the season) has gone on, I would say I’ve become a little more numb to it. I’ve gotten a little bit better at focusing on what I need to do.”
Robertson went 2-for-3 and smacked his seventh home run of the season on July 6. Mets’ DH Nick Plummer also hit his seventh bomb for Syracuse that day; Plummer and Robertson were teammates in 2017 with the Cardinals’ affiliate in Peoria.
New York acquired two players at the MLB trade deadline that were unavailable for the Mets’ game at Washington on August 2 – so for the second time in 2022, Robertson was hastily called up for a major league game.
He watched from the dugout as the Mets beat the Nationals 5-1, and the next day, New York designated for assignment.
“I just flew home,” Robertson said. “I didn’t know if I was going to have to go to Tacoma, Washington or if I was going back to the East Coast, or if I was going to stay in the south, or back to Syracuse. I really had no idea.”
“I was in Baton Rouge and my car was in Syracuse. I had flown from D.C. where I was with the Mets and that’s when I got the phone call that I was going back to Memphis. I was like, alright, we have some logistics to figure out here.”
On Tuesday night, Robertson was back where the saga began – leading off for the Redbirds at AutoZone Park.
In the fourth inning, he walloped a first-pitch fastball from Indianapolis’ righty Miguel Yajure into the Redbirds’ bullpen for a two-run blast, his eighth of the season – another memorable moment in the most exhausting, thrilling, maddening, and wild summer of his life.
While in Syracuse, Robertson received a package in the mail from the Cardinals – inside was the baseball he hit for an RBI in his first MLB at-bat. The jersey he wore in his big-league debut is already framed.
The other 2022 mementos are on the floor in the Memphis clubhouse.
“I have about five bags,” he said. “Two Mets’ bags, two Braves’ bags and my old Cardinals’ bag. They’re all stacked up next to my locker right now.”
Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505