Nine years ago, Devin Robberson agreed to come back to his alma mater at County Line to work as a baseball coach. A 1995 graduate who went on to play ball in college, Robberson agreed to take the post if he could work with Ryan Castleman, and the combo has produced quality teams during that run. “I said I would take the position if I could work with Cass and I would do it until (son) Caleb was through.” Caleb is a 2020 graduate at County Line and the two have paths that have paralleled to this point.
Devin played basketball and baseball at such a high level for the Indians, he earned the chance to play at WestArk College, which is now the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. The goal during those two years in Junior College (JuCo) ball is to earn your way to the next step. Devin did just that, being the first person to sign with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff as they made their return to Division 1 ball. Robberson was a tall, lanky pitcher, and said that the college game is much different than high school. Seven of his teammates from WestArk went on to play for the Razorbacks. They were well-coached with much higher expectations by Bill Crowder and Jim Wiley.
Now his son Caleb will have the chance to play beyond high school. County Line Senior Caleb Robberson, who is also tall and thin, saw his season cut short by the pandemic.
“We had a feeling in the game against Magazine, and the next day Westside canceled. We knew then it was over.”
County Line was set to have a strong season and had thrown nine pitchers over their two games this season. In those two games, Caleb was seven for eight at the plate and pitched one inning, striking out all three batters he faced.
Caleb has played baseball since he was three years old. Those summer leagues have been a major part of the life he has shared with his dad, who was usually a coach.
“Dad is harder on me, but I like it better,” Caleb said of playing for his dad. Devin relates something he heard from another coach years ago, stating, “It is my job as a coach to make you uncomfortable. I knew no matter the situation, and I really put Caleb in some really tough ones, that he would grow through it.”
Caleb was expected to make a run at a lot of records for County Line this season, many set by his dad or other family members. “He's always had older cousins playing, so they have always been ahead of him and he had to step up to play with the older ones,” Devin says of Caleb’s path to leadership.
That leadership came full circle a year ago when Caleb broke his hand during the season. He had been the anchor on the mound, and all of the rain meant the District Tournament would be played in one day. Pitching numbers forced the Indians to make moves in the final that saw them fall behind significantly in the first inning. Caleb, who is genuinely modest about his achievements, said, “I don’t ever remember losing to Scranton, and I didn’t want to. I am friends with a lot of those guys and I just did not want to have to hear about it.”
From there, Caleb admittedly played all of his cards, getting permission to play with a cast on his hand. Well into the game, they found padding to wrap over the cast to meet the requirements to take the field. They found an old, dilapidated glove in the concession stand that would slide over the cast, and Caleb talked his dad into letting him step into one of those hard situations. He took the mound, and was not good early on, but worked through it. Devin questioned his son openly, as was their relationship. Then, Caleb took over. When it was all over, Caleb only gave up two hits and struck out 13 batters. When he went to bat, he talked them into letting him go at it left-handed, something he had not done before. He went three for four at the plate, including the game-winning walk-off single to win the District title over his rival.
Last year, in the postseason, Caleb pitched in three games, including the District win. He went on to record another 14 strikeout game giving up one hit in the regional and won a game in what was the eighth appearance for the Indians in the nine years under Castleman and Robberson. Caleb finished the postseason with three wins and gave up a total of five hits. He hit over .500 from the opposite side of the plate wearing a cast.
With high school ball officially behind him, Caleb will now head to play for Perry Kieth and Connors State in Warner, Oklahoma. Connors State is a Division 1 Junior College, which is an excellent route for baseball players not going directly to a Division 1 four-year university. Players can redshirt, be drafted after any year, or transfer to larger four-year schools. Coach Kieth was impressed with the curveball that Robberson has. He has a fastball in the mid to upper 80 mph range, a little faster than his dad did. The goal is to add some speed to that while at Connors State.
Robberson has been active in the invitation-only events for Prep Baseball Report Arkansas. Those events measure everything from pitching speeds and accuracy to launch angles and bat speed. They package all of the numbers with video and scouts and coaches use the information in recruiting and the draft. Perry Kieth was on Caleb a year ago through the events, and Caleb knew that is where he wanted to play.
Until then, social distancing doesn’t keep the family business from stopping. Father and son were out working cattle and hauling horses before they sat down for the interview. Devin has been working long days with the County Line Sale Barn and with the restaurant serving carryout meals. Their paths mirror each other, a generation apart. Devin has had the opportunity to be there for Caleb’s games and hopes to be for many more going forward. Devin will end his time coaching at County Line and plans to make many trips to see Caleb follow his baseball dream.