Some Twitter bios are better than others.
Baseball is something I do, not who I am.
"Our jobs can't define us as who we are," Michael Roth says from the Raley Field clubhouse before a Sacramento River Cats win. "For me, that's really just what it means. My identity is not my sport.
"That doesn't mean that if I go out there and I get shelled, that I don't get upset, but it just means that I'm not going to take that home with me. That's the biggest thing and that's what it means to me. Baseball is not my identity, I'm not going to wrap my life in it. While I love it and enjoy it, I'm just not gonna hinge on every game as to whether I'm a failure or success."
Every June, college baseball's elite come to Omaha, Neb. aiming to do what Roth accomplished at the College World Series. As a team, that would be winning the national championship — twice in Roth's case. As a player, that would be turning into a superstar.
Long before he earned a single cent for playing the game, Roth was signing autographs for more than just fans of his South Carolina Gamecocks on his way into the record books.
"You’re pretty much famous while you’re there," Roth said. "The College World Series is about as big league as it gets when you’re not in the big leagues. Playing in front of 25,000 people, the fans are really good fans, they’re really into the game no matter if it’s your fans traveling or just the people in Omaha."
Roth's College World Series career ended with three straight trips from his sophomore season to his senior season (2010-12) and was crowned a champion twice with legendary numbers. They are as follows: 10 appearances (third most ever), eight starts (record), three starts in a championship game (record), four wins (second most ever), 60.1 innings pitched (record), and a 1.49 ERA (fourth best ever with minimum 30 innings pitched).
Roth's collision course to domination was not an excepted one, especially on the mound. In fact, he wasn't even recruited to South Carolina as a pitcher.
"I was recruited to South Carolina as a first baseman and didn’t really perform well enough in fall to even merit much contention so I really pitched out of necessity my freshman year," Roth said.
The lefty still managed to hit in 13 games as a freshman, batting just .154. On the mound, he turned out a solid 4.22 ERA with a 1-1 record after pitching in 16 games and starting two.
That next season in 2010, the legend began.
When he came back to campus as a sophomore, Roth was still plenty focused on trying to be an everyday first baseman. One day while turning double plays at first, then pitching coach Mark Calvi saw a way to make Roth into a force on the hill.
"He saw me and said, ‘Have you ever thought about dropping down?’ I’m like ‘Hell no, what are you thinking?’ He made me do it right then and there, go throw sidearm in the bullpen," Roth said.
That lefty sidearm slot saw Roth, who is far from a flamethrower, sling unhittable pitches to the tune of an ERA just above one. He was the ultimate lefty specialist until South Carolina needed him the most for much more than a quick outing out of the ‘pen.
With South Carolina facing elimination against rival Clemson in the College World Series, the starting rotation was out of arms. Before he knew it, coach Calvi came up to his All-American reliever and named Roth the day's starting pitcher for the first time that season with one simple message: "Hey, just go out there and pitch."
The plan was for Roth to go a couple innings so South Carolina could use a bullpen by committee approach. Next thing you know, Roth is through three innings. The plan seems perfect. Then five innings. Okay, this is a lot better than any plan. He's dealing, keep him in. Roth not only perfected the plan, he was more than perfect, better than any expectations that were placed upon him. He saved the season with a complete game, allowing only three hits in a 5-1 win.
South Carolina went on to beat UCLA in the championship, starting its run of three straight appearances in the finals, winning again in 2011 before losing in 2012.
Now at 27 years old and pitching with the Sacramento River Cats as part of the San Francisco Giants' Triple-A team, Roth knows the questions are coming around this time of year. His left arm earned its legend as an amateur and instead of run from the past, his eyes are set on the present while appreciating how he came to this point.
"I guess in a sense my career did take off in the College World Series because if it weren’t for that, I’m not sure if I’d even be here as a starting pitcher or as a pitcher in general," Roth says. "It’s kind of interesting how life’s events take you with things like that in big moments.”
Less than a year after being selected by the Angels in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, Roth made his MLB debut against the Astros, pitching two perfect innings while striking out four straight at one point. The dream was made, but he also learned the realities of pro baseball compared to college.
"As far as from a career perspective, college baseball really teaches you how to go out there and compete and go out there and win," Roth explains. "Pro baseball is much more individualized.
"It still sucks if you come to the park every day and get your ass kicked. But it’s just more individual in its nature, it’s more of a business."
After the 2014 season, the Angels released Roth. He has made it to the bigs with two teams — the Angels and Rangers — but the Giants signing him in November 2016 made them Roth's fourth organization since 2012.
The Giants were particularly intriguing to Roth in the offseason as they weren't set on him being a starter or reliever, creating flexibility and hopefully another path to the majors. Roth has pitched in 13 games this year for Sacramento, starting nine, and holds a 4-4 record with a 4.12 ERA in the highly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
The journey has been stardom in college with peaks and valleys as a pro. For Roth though, it still comes down to that message coach Calvi said to him as he started his status among the College World Series greats — make pitches, throw strikes, get outs.
"Whether you throw mid to upper 90s or 88 to 92 like I throw, I think it's really just attacking the zone," he says. "That's something I focus on every time out there. It's going right at them and not trying to be too fine and make a perfect pitch. A good pitch is good enough, I don't need to make a perfect pitch."
The stats will always be there. The memories too. Records are meant to be broken, but plenty of his might as well be etched in stone. The game, the numbers have been how others see him yet it's not all who Michael Roth is — just like he showed by spending three months in Spain after winning the 2011 national championship — no matter how many South Carolina fans sit around bars talking about what his left arm did in Omaha, no matter when he's back in the big leagues and no matter how long he toes the rubber.
Baseball is something I do, not who I am.