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Orioles fans are thrilled to see Adley Rutschman play with one of the best minor league teams

Orioles fans are thrilled to see Adley Rutschman play with one of the best minor league teams

A light drizzle began roughly two hours prior to Adley Rutschman’s Delmarva Shorebirds debut, lasting maybe 10 minutes. Just after, a rainbow appeared beyond the outfield wall, perfectly arching from the foul pole in left to the one in right.

You could hardly ask for a more fitting metaphor for the top overall pick in the MLB Draft, the 2019 rainbow to the 2018 storm that was the Orioles finishing with the worst record in baseball.

The catcher’s promotion was met with considerable hype from an Orioles fanbase desperate to support its stars of the future. Rutschman is one of the most-lauded prospects to enter the minor leagues in the last decade, and his potential future impact isn’t lost on anyone who cares about the team.

The enthusiasm surrounding everything Rutschman does was evident throughout the stadium Wednesday night, with several fans already proudly wearing Rutschman jerseys from his previous stop in Aberdeen. The buzz permeating through the stadium was palpable from the moment the gates opened an hour before first pitch.

Rutschman was the first player from either team out on the field, 45 minutes before the first pitch. It was an opportunity to soak it all in for a player who has rarely had a chance to stay under the radar.

The inevitable raucous applause did come eventually, whether it was during his introduction, first at-bat, or the first baserunner he gunned down from behind the plate. The long autograph lines and standing ovations will be a staple at every stop.

He’s going to have to work his way through most, if not all, levels of the Orioles farm system, and that means an opportunity for fans from all over Maryland to see the face of the rebuild in person.

For some fans, while Wednesday was a chance to see Rutschman in Delmarva for the first time, it wasn’t their first time seeing him anywhere.

“It’s been amazing, coming out and seeing him,” said Andrew Low, a local fan who already owns a Rutschman Ironbirds jersey. “I went out to his first two games in Aberdeen, crowd turnout has been fantastic at all the games he’s been in.”

“It’s pretty great that everyone’s getting more interested in the young guys coming up, and I think everyone’s excited for the future of the Orioles,” Low continued.

Rutschman joins one of the few Orioles affiliates apparently not in need of any help. The Shorebirds have already made history this season, setting a team record for wins while preparing for a playoff run. 

Delmarva has been led by a terrific young pitching staff, full of potential future big leaguers. It’s a group Rutschman, as a catcher, will begin developing a rapport with from day one. His effort was already apparent in inning one, as he ran to pat his starting pitcher on the back walking off the field after the top of his very first inning with the team, and each subsequent inning as well.

Of course, it’s the looming postseason that makes Rutschman’s promotion all the more exciting.

“To be a part of a team that’s going to the playoffs for sure, and doing very well right now, I’m very fortunate to be a part of this team,” Rutschman told Will DeBoer, the voice of the Shorebirds, prior to his first game.

Low echoed this sentiment from the fan’s perspective.

“Oh yeah, of course it is,” the longtime fan said when asked how cool it will be to see Rutschman in the postseason so soon. “He’s going to get the experience in the playoffs that he wouldn’t have had down at Aberdeen, and I expect him to do good things in the playoffs.”

Wednesday night was another win in the books for the Shorebirds, and the ability to play with a team experiencing success was not lost on Rutschman.

“It’s awesome,” Rutschman continued with DeBoer. “Winning is extremely fun and shooting for that championship is absolutely the best thing you can go for in baseball. It’s the reason that you play.”

“Winning is extremely fun” is probably the truest quote Rutschman will ever give in his career, and it will be music to the ears of O’s fans everywhere to hear.

But what’s also fun is getting a glimpse of the future, and that’s exactly what Wednesday night was. Rutschman will have better outings than 0-2 with two walks, and he’ll have worse. But throughout it all, fans are going to shower him with praise.

Fittingly, the pregame rainbow did not mark the end of the storms on Wednesday. Lightning flashed behind the clouds in right field for much of the night. The Orioles aren’t out of their storm just yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t chances to enjoy the rainbows along the way.

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Orioles front office pleased with progress, fan support during trying season

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Orioles front office pleased with progress, fan support during trying season

It’s been a long and trying season at Camden Yards, a fact not lost on Orioles leadership. 

Prior to the home finale Sunday afternoon, manager Brandon Hyde met with the media for his usual pregame availability. He answered each question, explained a few decisions he had been made, and sprinkled in a few jokes. It was a typical press conference.

Then, when all the questions were done, Hyde stopped everyone getting up to leave, asking to say a few words.

“The energy in the ballpark last night was fantastic,” Hyde began. “I’m looking forward to the day when it’s like that all the time. I appreciate the way the fans showed up.”

Of course, that fan support came in what was ultimately a losing effort for the Orioles. It’s a pattern that’s been prevalent all season long in Baltimore.

“It’s been hard,” the manager continued. “Been a trying process, I totally understand the frustrations. But it will get better.”

It did get better, at least for a day, as the Orioles held off the Mariners 2-1 in a breezy Sunday afternoon affair.

Most of the players impacting Sunday’s win may not be around the next time the Orioles are competitive, but the starting pitcher certainly caught the eye of Mike Elias this season.

“I think the team has played its butt off all year,” the general manager praised before the game. “It’s battled, and I think we can all go with the individual success stories. You know, Means, Santander, Severino, Mancini having a huge year. I mean, there’s too many to go through right now. Not everything goes perfectly in a baseball season, but I think the positives this year far outweigh the negatives, and our organization is positioned so much better for the future than it was this time last year.”

The general praise continued from the man leading the Orioles' rebuild, though he is quick to recognize the reality of the franchise’s situation.

“We’ve got a lot of areas to get better in, I think that’s no secret,” Elias admitted. “But overall we sit back and look around at what’s happened in the organization and it was just a very positive year. Got a lot accomplished across the organization...The farm system’s taken a huge jump this year. Some of that, obviously, is the draft with the number one pick. But I would argue most of it is what happened with the players that were already in the system. Some player development improvements that we made, the changes and the steps forward the group took. Here at the big league level, look. I mean we’re still losing games way more than we want to. This is not fun, it’s not easy to crawl out of.”

Elias is right. The Orioles finished 61 games out of first place in 2018. Even with Sunday’s win, they are currently 50 games behind the Yankees in the AL East in 2019. 

This is a huge hole, and a better year than last doesn’t mean the Orioles are close to competing. Yet.

While Elias and the rest of the front office appreciate the fan support the team has received in 2019, he knows it’s all relative to the on-field success of the organization.

“I can’t ask anyone to embrace losing the way we have. Our record last year was historically bad, this year it’s not going to be a ton better. Nobody wants to do this. We never want this to happen again,” Elias told reporters emphatically. “There’s a long way to go, a lot to be done. I think the support has been tremendous. The people coming out here, they love this team. The people of the city love this team, they know that this needs to be done. And I’m confident that they’re going to come back, and they’re gonna come back in a big way.”

At least one pregame request from Hyde came true Sunday, as he hoped fans would show appreciation for both Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, two Orioles who have experienced rough years for different reasons.

The Camden Yards faithful responded, showering Davis with thunderous applause after his home run in the seventh inning gave the O’s their 2-1 lead. Of course, any player homering in that scenario would receive an ovation. But that doesn’t make it any less nice to see it come Davis’ way.

Hyde also put out a second plea to Orioles fans pregame. 

“I’m asking for everybody’s patience. I want fans to feel good about the start of the process, and trust that it’s going to get better.”

The confidence from management has not wavered, and for now, it hasn’t wavered from most fans either. If Hyde and Elias are to be believed, even a 100-loss season can signal a positive step forward, and the Orioles firmly believe they’re on the right track.

This time in 2018, the Orioles were a franchise in disarray, with a lame-duck leadership team and a bleak future. 

It’s hard to believe what a difference a season can make.

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Ryan Mountcastle earns Orioles’ top prospect award

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Baltimore Orioles Roundup: Ryan Mountcastle earns Orioles’ top prospect award

The Mariners claimed their second-ever win against the Orioles in a game of 13 innings or longer (September 5, 2003). Check out the latest news and notes from the  Baltimore Orioles' clubhouse. 

Player Updates:

RP John Means will start Sunday against the Mariners. Over 143.0 innings Means sits at a 10-11 mark so far, with a 3.65 ERA, 112 Ks, and 35 BBs. 

1B Ryan Mountcastle earned the Orioles’ top prospect award which he received before Saturday's first pitch. The 22-year-old hit .312 for Norfolk with an OPS of .871. Mountcastle hit 25 home runs and had 83 RBIs.

Injuries

OF Mason Williams, knee, out indefinitely

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Monday 9/23: Orioles at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Rogers Centre

Tuesday 9/24: Orioles at Blue Jays, 7:07 p.m. Rogers Centre

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