ST. LOUIS -- Far from the spotlight she stood under on the sidelines, Kim Mulkey would take her son, Kramer Robertson, to a Little League field in Waco, Texas, plop a bucket down behind the plate and position herself to catch.It was on one such day about a decade ago
ST. LOUIS -- Far from the spotlight she stood under on the sidelines, Kim Mulkey would take her son, Kramer Robertson, to a Little League field in Waco, Texas, plop a bucket down behind the plate and position herself to catch.
It was on one such day about a decade ago that Mulkey squatted on that bucket for the final time. Her son was beginning to throw with a bit more zip, and one of his pitches that afternoon skipped in the dirt and off mom's ankle. Mulkey got up gingerly, threw her mitt down, grabbed the bucket and abruptly ended the session.
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"He didn't understand it until we got in the car and I said, 'Look at my ankle,'" Mulkey recalled on Tuesday. "No way. I can't do it anymore. After that, I said, I'm not going to get hurt out here."
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"She kept her word," Robertson chuckled. "She's never played catch with me ever since that day."
Though the mother-son bullpen sessions ceased, their bond over sports has not. That's why on a day when Robertson was selected by the Cardinals in the fourth round of the MLB Draft, celebrations broke out not just at Louisiana State University, where Robertson is a senior shortstop, but also in the women's basketball offices of Baylor University, where Mulkey has spent the last 17 seasons as a head coach.
She was preparing to lead her team through an afternoon practice on Tuesday when members of her staff came racing over to share the news. It came less than 48 hours after Mulkey sat in the stands watching Robertson's LSU team qualify for the College World Series. She's got a trip to Omaha planned for this weekend.
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Mulkey is mom and coach, and often a mom who can't help but be a coach. She watches the game with a nuanced eye for strategy and detail, and her passion for scouting drew Mulkey to a Cardinals scout that came to watch one of Robertson's games earlier this year. While the other scouts watched idly, this one, Mulkey told her son afterward, was thorough with his notes.
"She said this guy stood out to her because he was up there sweating bullets and had his pen and paper taking notes on every swing in batting practice," Robertson said. "She was fired up."
Robertson, a 5-foot-10 infielder who followed former No. 2 overall pick, Alex Bregman, as the starting shortstop at LSU, comes from a family with a distinguished athletic legacy.
His father, Randy Robertson, was a quarterback on Louisiana Tech's Division II national championship team. His older sister, Makenzie, played for their mother on Baylor's 2012 NCAA national championship team.
Then there's Mulkey, who won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympics and later became the first person in NCAA history to win a basketball national championship as a player, assistant coach and head coach. And before her basketball career took off, Mulkey was at one point considered the best Little League baseball player in her area.
Robertson, who admits he couldn't beat his mother in 1-on-1 hoops until fifth grade, was not only pushed by others' athletic success, but specifically, he said, by his mother's pursuit of excellence.
"The passion you see from her on the sidelines, it's in my blood," Robertson said. "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm is what she always says.
"Yeah, she's always been tough on me; very different than most mothers. She's always been the first one to be there if I need anything, but she's not going to sugarcoat anything. If I had a bad game, she'd let me have it. Even when I was seven or eight years old, she'd let me know if I didn't have it that day. It's tough love, but I'm thankful for it. It made me into the athlete and the person I am today."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.