Hannibal High School graduate Scot Roberts signed to pitch for the Hannibal Hoots in the Prospect League club's inaugural season.

Scot Roberts made a statement for the Hannibal Hoots before ever stepping foot on Clemens Field for the Prospect League club's inaugural season.

The Hannibal High School graduate, now a freshman pitcher at Missouri Western State University, went back on his agreement to play for the Quincy Gems this summer after receiving an offer from Hoots general manager Matt Stembridge.

Roberts wanted to come home.

“I agreed to play with the Gems, but I didn't sign the contract because I was holding out since I knew the Hoots were starting in Hannibal and I really wanted to play here,” Roberts said. “Clemens Field is literally a five-minute drive from my house. I held out for two weeks. The Hoots finally texted me, and within an hour of the conversation ending, I signed my contract.”

Roberts, a 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-hander, is one of more than 30 players the Hannibal franchise has signed to play this summer in the 11-team, college wood-bat league. 

The Hoots are scheduled to play 60 games in 67 days, starting with Opening Day on May 30 against the visiting Danville Dans.

They will battle Quincy 15 times.

“That rivalry is going to be, 'Let's go, we've got to win this,' Roberts said of facing Quincy. “When you're on the field, you do not like Quincy. When the Hoots play the Gems, it's going to be a war, and I'm really excited for that aspect.”

Stembridge mentioned Roberts will be an important piece of the Hoots roster because of his capabilities on the mound that made him a Class 5 all-star his senior season of high school. 

The fact he's a local product is icing on the cake.

“It's very important to me that we get the best available players in our region,” Stembridge said. “Not only from a fan perspective, but I want those kids to grow up and get excited about playing for the Hoots in the summer.”

Stembridge previously came up short in his quest to recruit Roberts to Quincy University, where he was an assistant coach before taking over operations of the Hoots this past fall. But his efforts three years ago helped plant the seeds that brought the hurler back to America's Hometown.

“It's cool that he recruited me to go to QU when I was 16, and now I'm older and he got me to come back to Hannibal,” Roberts said. “There's already a relationship there.”

While Roberts will return to a field he has played on many times, including last summer in the Missouri-Illinois All-Star Game, he will be meeting most of his Hoots teammates for the first time. That excludes Missouri Western junior Chevy Emken, who will join Roberts on the pitching staff. 

Roberts is confident the Hoots will have the talent required to be in contention this season, something Hannibal's former Prospect League team, dubbed the Cavemen, struggled to do in their final seasons before suspending operations last January.

“When I was younger, the Cavemen had guys from LSU, Alabama, all the big SEC (Southeastern Conference) guys who haven't played for a year because they went and redshirted,” Roberts said. “But now we're going to have a roster full of guys who played a complete spring with a lot of at-bats, a lot of innings and a lot of experience.” 

Roberts remembers standing in line for autographs from Cavemen players when he would attend games in middle school.

Now he will be in their shoes.

“I went to all the games when they (the Cavemen) first started, and I just really wanted to play in Hannibal,” Roberts said. “Being home will be a lot of fun.” 

As for his role with the Hoots, Roberts said he is willing to accept whatever responsibilities manager Clayton Hicks gives him.

“I've always been down to do whatever,” he said. “It would be really cool if I could just be on the mound the Fourth of July or something like that, starting that game with all my family and friends. But if they need me to run bases, I'll run bases, or if it's raking the field, I'll rake the field. Whatever role they put me in, I'll do my best.”

Roberts plans to be an ambassador of sorts for Hannibal once his teammates arrive this summer.

“It will be really cool to show guys around because I've lived here my whole life,” he said. “I know where all the cool spots are. I know where Java Jive is, where Lover's Leap is, all the cool stuff that probably a lot of guys won't know about. I love this place. I miss it when I'm at college and will be excited to come back in the summer.”

All of the Hoots players will live with host families during the season.

Roberts will, too, though he knows his hosts very well.

“My parents signed up to be my host family, so I was really glad they did that,” Roberts said with a laugh.