Southfield native, former St. Mary's star tosses first pitch before game at Comerica Park

By: Mike Moore | C&G Newspapers | Published April 10, 2015

 Allen Robinson gets ready to fire his pitch toward home. Robinson said it may not have been a strike, “but if there was a batter, he certainly could have swung at it.”

Allen Robinson gets ready to fire his pitch toward home. Robinson said it may not have been a strike, “but if there was a batter, he certainly could have swung at it.”

Photo by Deb Jacques


DETROIT — He played in a state championship game in high school, in front of more than 100,000 fans during his time in college, and last year, on the grandest stages that the game of football can offer as a rookie wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

So when asked if he was nervous about throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Detroit Tigers’ home game April 9, Allen Robinson said simply, “I don’t think so. I feel ready.”

That was the day before, a day when he dedicated time and preparation for what he knew had to be a solid throw.

“I don’t want to end up on any blooper reels,” he added with a laugh.

But some four months after accepting an invitation to stand on the mound at Comerica Park, Robinson found himself watching the rain fall, wondering if he’d ever get a shot to shine.

The afternoon contest against the Minnesota Twins was delayed for four hours, and then, as Robinson put it, “It happened so quick. I wasn’t sure they were going to play, then the tarp was off and they were warming up. That’s when I really had some nerves jumping around in me.”

Athletics have been a part of Robinson’s life as far back as he can remember. But baseball wasn’t his main sport.

He was a standout at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on the football field and basketball court.

In 2011, he was one of the main weapons on an Eaglets gridiron squad that rolled to a 12-2 record, reached the state finals for a third consecutive year, and won the program’s first Division 3 title since 2000.

He finished that senior season with 44 receptions for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and intercepted two passes.

The Southfield resident then chose Penn State University to continue his career, and in 2012 was one of four true freshmen to see action, making three catches for 29 yards in 12 games.

As a sophomore, Robinson started all 12 games at wide receiver and broke the Penn State season receptions record with 77 catches, while his 1,013 yards were good for just the third 1,000-yard receiving season in program history.

Robinson led the Big Ten in receptions (77), catches per game (6.4), receiving yards (1,013) and touchdowns (11) by the time his sophomore season concluded.

As a junior, he pulled in 97 catches for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns, leading the Big Ten in receptions and yards for a second straight year.

Following his junior season, Robinson entered the 2014 draft and was selected by the Jaguars in the second round as the 61st overall pick.

Still, being asked to throw the first pitch was nothing to scoff at, at the time.

“I rank this right up there with some of the things I’ve done in my career,” said Robinson, who in 10 games during his rookie season had 48 receptions for 548 yards and two touchdowns. He missed the final six games due to a foot injury. “I mean, this isn’t something you get to do every day. I’m wearing a Tigers jersey with my name on it, standing out there in that environment, and I get to throw the first pitch.”

Robinson, who invited military veterans from the Detroit Veterans Center to attend the game with him, last played baseball as a freshman at St. Mary’s.

He said the rain delay was actually enjoyable, as he got to spend time with family and friends who attended the game, people who he doesn’t see as often anymore due to his schedule.

But then the tarp was removed, and Tigers infielder Andrew Romine walked out with Robinson to officially take part in the pregame ceremony.

“And I was never a pitcher,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve tried to practice a bit the past few weeks, just throwing 20 to 30 pitches or so.”

But on this day he had just one, and afterward he was plenty proud of it.

“Probably a ball,” Robinson joked. “But if there was a batter, he could have swung at it.”