Dan Duquette called it one of his favorite days of the year, when the executive vice president of baseball operations gets to honor minor league players and staff who have excelled this season.
On Saturday evening he did that, as lefty reliever Donnie Hart, a former 27th rounder who reached the majors this year, was presented with the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award and top catching prospect Chance Sisco, who hit .320 for the Double-A Bowie Baysox and made it to Triple-A at age 21, received the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award.
“We’re very, very proud of these two guys, of their work,” Duquette said Saturday. “I want to congratulate these guys on their success and encourage them to keep it up. And we look forward to having you for many years here at Camden Yards.”
Also recognized Saturday were:
Delmarva catcher Yermin Mercedes, who won the South Atlantic League batting title.
Area scout Thom Dreier, who signed Hart and lefty Tanner Scott, was presented with the Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award.
Minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker, who worked with Dylan Bundy and other rehabbing players in Sarasota, Fla., won the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award.
Also, Bowie infielder Drew Dosch was named as the recipient of the Elrod Hendricks Minor League Community Service Award for his work with youth baseball camps, among other community outreach efforts. He could not attend the ceremony.
Here are some quotes from the news conference the club held Saturday:
Hart on Sisco’s development: “Chance is a great kid to have on your team, because he’s going to give you a good (at-bat) every time he steps to the plate. He is going to make a pitcher work and earn that out. And then he goes back to behind the plate and he sees things that a lot of the pitchers don’t. And he’s learning as the time has gone on. It’s been fun to watch it happen.”
Sisco on spring training with Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph: “Being around Wiety and Caleb helped me tremendously. They did help me with the routine, that was one of the big things. They helped me defensively, that was another huge thing. I think that’s what helped me take a step forward in my career this year, being around then and being around (catching instructor) John Russell, to help me defensively and be able to run the game back there. It’s something I kind of didn’t do in years before, manage the game. It’s something I definitely stepped up in this year, took my focus to mainly being behind the plate and working with the pitchers.”
Sisco on what has been his biggest challenge defensively: “Footwork and controlling the running game. Working with the pitchers on that. There’s two sides to it. They’ve got to help me and I’ve got to help them. That’s been the toughest thing for me so far. But I’ve made huge strides in that from spring training until now.”
Hart on an amazing ascent from Double-A to the majors in 2016: “I didn’t really envision being here when I got here, and playing at this level this year. But it happened. I’m very thankful for it and, yeah, it’s hard to put into words. It really is. You always just want to go and give it your best. I never would’ve dreamed I was in here this year, so being here is a dream come true.”
Mercedes on going from being a released player to a batting champ: “I’m not going to forget (what’s happened). I thank the Orioles for giving me a chance. I do my work. I’m working hard and that’s the reason that I’m here.”
Walker on helping Bundy rebound from injuries and succeed with the Orioles: “It’s everything. That’s what led me to athletic training. It’s about getting the players back to their top level.”
Dreier on the first time he scouted Hart: “It was against (Texas) A&M Corpus Christi and I got my (radar) gun out and he was 87 to 89 (mph), and none of the other scouts were really paying attention except for my friend … a scout for the Red Sox at the time. We both kind of made eye contact and put our guns away real quick, because we didn’t want anybody else to notice. So I got my camera out discreetly, filmed a couple of pitches and put it away. … The Donnie that you see today is the Donnie that I saw that day. He throws strikes, competes, he knows what he can do. That’s kind of what made him attractive.”