Tatman's wild ride continues post-baseball

D-backs' colorful cult hero enjoys life as man of many hats

January 2nd, 2020

PHOENIX -- Asked about his life since retiring from baseball, former D-backs third baseman Ryan Roberts thinks for a moment before answering.

“I think people will think it’s pretty crazy,” he said.

Known as Tatman for the numerous tattoos on his body, Roberts was a fan favorite during his three-plus seasons with the team from 2009-12 in large part because of his all-out style of play and personality.

“He’s not scared,” then-Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said about Roberts during his playing days.

Signed as a Minor League free agent by the D-backs in December 2008, Roberts made the team out of Spring Training in '09 and slashed .279/.367/.416 that season.

But it’s the 2011 season that he will always be remembered for, as he played a big role on an Arizona team that shocked the baseball world by winning the National League West Division title.

Roberts delivered a walk-off grand slam during the final week of the season as the D-backs chased the Brewers to see who would get home-field advantage in the NL Division Series. That homer, which came in the 10th inning, is still shown often at Chase Field because, as he rounded second base, Roberts imitated Gibson’s legendary first-pump that followed his homer against Dennis Eckersley to end Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

“Gibby was a great manager,” Roberts said. “I thought he was an awesome person, just fun and interesting to talk to, and he had some great stories. As soon as I hit it I thought, ‘I’m doing the Gibby right now!’ But I pumped the wrong hand and no one said anything to me about it.”

A week later, Roberts helped force a decisive Game 5 in the NLDS with a grand slam during Arizona’s 10-6 win in Game 4.

The D-backs weren’t able to recreate the magic in 2012 and Roberts was dealt to the Rays midway through the season. After two seasons with Tampa Bay, he spent part of '14 with the Red Sox and was with the A’s Triple-A team in Nashville, Tenn., for all of '15.

Roberts intended to return in 2016, and he said he had some Minor League offers, but instead chose to get involved with Global Outreach Development International, whose mission is “equipping a globally conscious community to serve the poor and marginalized through education, advocacy and empowerment, demonstrating unconditional love.”

After living in Nashville while playing for the Sounds, Roberts, his wife Kim and their three children -- Hudsyn, Lyric and Beckham -- decided to buy a house and settle there once he retired.

It was a new experience for the couple, currently expecting their fourth child. Roberts, now 39, and Kim had moved 35 times in 11 years. Enough was enough.

Roberts initially spent his time working with Globel Outreach, and he has gone on missions trips to Third World countries as part of his work.

To make ends meet, Roberts took a job with Music City Handyman, filling many roles -- just as he had when he played baseball.

“Building houses, framing, sewer and water taps, electrical, plumbing, roofing ... any aspect you can think of, I’ve done it,” Roberts said. “It’s very hard work, it’s very long hours, it’s very blue collar, but it was super fun.”

The last part of that sentence is what best sums up Roberts' spirit. Regardless of what he’s faced or what he’s had to do to make ends meet, he is able to find the good.

Roberts left the construction business after three years and helped someone he knew open a small café. Putting his construction background to good use, he helped remodel the building and then joined the staff as a cook and barista, learning the intricacies of pulling shots and the right ratio to use when extracting coffee.

Then it was on to becoming an executive chef and working in the catering industry.

While working as a server at expensive catered events, Roberts found himself on the other end of the kinds of banquets he used to attend as a ballplayer.

“I had never carried a big tray of plates and food and served it,” he said. “They don’t know me as Ryan Roberts the baseball player. I’m just a server, so it’s interesting to be on that side of it after going to those high-end parties. Now I’m on the other side. The way that people interact and treat you is pretty wild. It was super fun. I know it doesn’t sound fun, but it is.”

That led Roberts to working for a food-truck catering company called Califarmia that specializes in farm fresh food.

“It’s pretty intense in the food truck world,” Roberts said. “There’s nine of us. We’re all chefs. Everybody does dishes, everybody mops, everybody cooks, everybody comes up with recipes. And we do everything from catering weddings off the truck to sometimes we dress up in our chef coats and go there and do culinary-type appetizers for weddings and a four-course meal.”

As part of that job, Roberts has cut gigantic wedding cakes.

“There’s a certain way to do it,” he said with a laugh. “I learned how to do it, and that’s super fun. The first few times you do it, I mean, you’re cutting an expensive cake and there’s pressure. You don’t want to mess it up.”

In addition to Califarmia, Roberts supplements his income as an auto auction mechanic, test-driving the cars people have bid on while hooking them up to computer diagnostic tests.

“That is really fun, and I get to drive some really cool cars,” he said. “That’s probably the most favorite of all the things I’ve done.”

So how does Roberts have so much fun with such labor-intensive jobs after being a Major Leaguer?

The answer can be found in his faith and in how he measures himself these days.

“What I want to be known for now is my character,” Roberts said. “Who is Ryan? I’m trying to live my life through scripture now, and I think it’s brought me to a place of being a real person. I’m the guy that’s going to come out to your remodel, or I’m going to serve you at one of your parties, or I’m going to make the coffee you drink. What I do for work doesn’t define me as a person. That’s why everything is fun and positive and life-giving.”