First baseman Robert Amaro is always interested in seeing what moves his uncle is making down the street.
Most recently, those moves have been some of the most highly criticized of any Philadelphia institution. Amaro, a Phillies fan from Bensalem, Pa., hears much of the criticism directed toward his uncle Rubén Amaro Jr. – the general manager of the Phillies.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s always good to see that the Phillies fans care,” Robert Amaro said. “That’s what you want to have for a sports franchise. Obviously this city is a big sports city so when you’re doing well he’s getting praise, when you’re not doing well he’s getting criticism. It’s tough now, but a couple years ago it was great. I can’t really complain.”
Robert Amaro is playing in his first season at Temple, where he is a graduate student majoring in sports business, after spending his first three years of eligibility at the University of Virginia.
Baseball is a tradition in the Amaro family. They’ve been playing and coaching in the game for the better part of the last century.
Robert Amaro’s great-grandfather, Santos Amaro, played professional baseball in his home country Cuba and in Mexico. His grandfather, Rubén Amaro Sr., played for four major league teams – including five seasons in Philadelphia – during the course of his 12-year professional career.
Robert Amaro’s father, David Amaro, played at Duke before becoming a coach in the Philadelphia area. Rubén Amaro Jr. played in the big leagues for eight seasons, the last three for the Phillies.
Knowing his past and present, Robert Amaro has a deep appreciation for the sport.
“I just try to play the game the right way and just respect the game,” Robert Amaro said. “Go out there every day, have fun and enjoy it. Obviously my family is in baseball, so I just try to stay focused and play the game the right way.”
The hulking 6-foot-2-inch first basemen is off to a quick start with the Owls, batting .292 and leading the team with 13 RBIs.
Being able to learn the game from his family has always been a valuable experience, he said.
“My dad’s always been a coach of mine,” Robert Amaro said. “It’s super special, he’s been coaching me since I was 6. Any time I wanted to go hit, get my work in, he’s always there willing to come help me out. I can’t thank him enough for that.”
After a successful high school career, he was drafted in the 40th round of the 2009 draft by the Phillies. Robert Amaro said former Phillies outfielder Eric Valent, now a scout, was the man behind bringing him into the organization.
Like many players who are drafted in the later rounds, Robert Amaro chose to go to college. He picked Virginia.
“I knew at that point I was going to school unless I was taken really high, which I wasn’t,” Robert Amaro said of the draft. “It was just a great experience to be connected to the Phillies before going off to college.”
While at Virginia, Robert Amaro dealt with injuries – labrum issues that required surgery, derailing his junior and senior seasons. He played in nine games during his sophomore season and one game during his junior year before graduating last May.
With one year of eligibility remaining and a need for a new school, Robert Amaro chose to return to Philadelphia and play for Temple, citing the sports business program and the desire to be close to home as a combination that he couldn’t pass up.
Robert Amaro’s new coach at Temple, Ryan Wheeler, once recruited him out of high school. While Wheeler was an assistant coach at Richmond in 2009, the Spiders were one of many programs seeking Robert Amaro’s services.
“I felt back then he was a good player and certainly coming from Penn Charter he fit the academic profile of the University of Richmond,” Wheeler said. “He made a great choice in Virginia and decided to go there. Lo and behold, we wind up having the chance to coach him anyway a few years down the road.”
With a team that’s being cut at the end of the season, the seniors have been relied on to guide the younger players and help them get through the year as they look for future playing opportunities – even Robert Amaro, who is in his first year with the squad.
“He’s kind of a quiet guy, he’s not a big talker,” Wheeler said. “But when I do have a chance to talk to him, his level of maturity is impressive. He’s done a tremendous job with the younger guys just using his experience to help them make decisions and learn the game, whatever it may be, he’s always available to talk to.”
“He’s usually the first guy to show up for practice and he’s one of the last guys to leave,” Wheeler added. “He’s a really hardworking kid and I know he’s got a bright future in baseball beyond his playing days.”
Jeff Neiburg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.