This is the third in a series of articles on the 2017 Class of the Clinton County County Sports Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony and dinner will be held 5:30 p.m. June 15 at the Expo Center on the Clinton County Fairgrounds. Doors will open at 5 p.m. The Wilmington News Journal Clinton County Scholar-Athlete Award also will be presented June 15. Cost is $25. Call the News Journal office to make reservations. NEXT UP: Joni Streber.
Roger Roberts may have loved baseball most among the sports he played, but he wasn’t going to shy away from any athletic challenge.
Despite having never played football, Roberts gave it a try in the fall of 1964 at Clinton-Massie, the first year of varsity football at the Lebanon Road school.
“I was going to try to get everything, any kind of sport,” said Roberts, who graduated from CMHS in 1968. “It was tough learning the game.”
And he had to learn new classmates as well, given that Clinton-Massie High School was the consolidated product of students from Clarksville, Adams Township, Kingman and Harveysburg school districts.
“I knew some of them but not all of them, the four schools coming into one,” he said. “It was rough at first, but after a while it tamed down.”
Roberts played varsity football four years at Massie, earning All-Fort Ancient Valley Conference honors. He played four years of varsity basketball, also earning All-FAVC recognition.
In the spring, while playing four years of varsity baseball, Roberts decided he could squeeze in a couple years of track and field on his off days. The track and field team needed a pole vaulter Roberts’ sophomore year.
“They wanted somebody to try it, so I did,” said Roberts. “It didn’t turn out too good.”
Undaunted, Roberts gave track and field a try the next year.
“The second year I ran,” he said, recalling the mile- and two-mile runs as possible events. However as a senior, Roberts decided against joining the track and field team.
“We were doing well in baseball and didn’t want anyone to get hurt, more or less, but some ran and some didn’t,” he said.
Baseball was definitely Roberts’ sport. The Falcons baseball team had great success, too, reaching the state semifinals in 1967 and regional finals in 1968.
Roberts defensive positions early in his career included catcher, shortstop and first base.
“Nobody thought I was big enough. I was a real short guy,” he said. “I was more or less the runt when I was a kid because I was real small. I finally got up to 6-2 and went from there.”
But in high school, Roberts was moved behind the plate when Dale Hillard graduated.
“I decided I wanted to get behind the plate,” said Roberts. “I had done it before but I didn’t like it.”
Following his senior year at Massie, Roberts and the Hillsboro Legion baseball team finished as runnersup in the state tournament. At Hillsboro, Roberts earned team MVP honors in ’67 by himself and then again in ’68 along with Wilmington’s Rick Kneisel and Clinton-Massie’s Jim Davis.
While at Hillsboro, Roberts admitted it was difficult being a teammate with players he had tried to beat just weeks before. However, the drive to be a successful team overcame any potential issues.
“Everybody got along well,” he said. “We were just a bunch of guys who wanted to play baseball.”
Roberts decided to continue playing baseball at Eastern Kentucky University, where he set an EKU record for runs batted in during a season (33 in 1972). He also was an All-Ohio Valley Conference catcher as a senior. However, his success never earned him a professional contract.
“All the way through college, Pittsburgh was at most of our games,” Roberts said. “I tried and tried and tried (to play professionally) but it didn’t happen. When I graduated (from EKU), Pittsburgh told me they were looking at guys just coming out of high school, not college.”
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports