Technically, my weekly radio show on WOYK 1350 in York is called “The Baltimore Baseball Show.”
But, really, its primary focus is on highlighting the sport; the location is secondary. If the subject has a Baltimore connection, well, that’s even better.
This week, my attention was on international baseball and the World Baseball Classic. But there definitely were two very Baltimore connections that we could weave in.
My first guest was Adam Gladstone, a Pikesville native who was the Orioles’ instant replay coordinator in 2014, was a former director of baseball operations for the York Revolution and a co-host of “The Bat Around” with Stan Charles on Pressboxonline.com.
Right now, Gladstone is wearing another hat – and it’s fitting pretty well. He is the general manager/director of baseball operations for the current darlings of the WBC, Team Israel.
Team Israel defeated the tough South Korean squad, 2-1, in its WBC opener in Seoul and then won 15-7 against Chinese Taipei in its second game. Suddenly, Israel looks like it will be advancing to the second round in Japan – a pretty significant accomplishment for a mix of unheralded minor leaguers and former big leaguers on the downside of their careers.
Calling from Korea, Gladstone talked about Team Israel’s camaraderie, how it all came together – Ben Werthan, the Orioles’ advance scouting coordinator, was a big factor in constructing the roster – and what that victory over Korea was like.
“To make that dome (in Seoul) quiet was unbelievable,” Gladstone said. “When they scored a run, that place was rocking. Those fans are into every pitch, they are singing and dancing. It truly is really neat to see from a baseball standpoint, and for us to walk out of there with a win was unbelievable.”
The second part of Tuesday’s show looked at the flipside of the World Baseball Classic.
Former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey, now a MASN studio analyst, joined me to talk about the importance of a pitcher-catcher relationship.
It’s a particularly salient point with Welington Castillo, the Orioles’ new starting catcher, away from the team during spring training because of his involvement with Team Dominican Republic of the WBC.
Castillo will be 30 in April. This may be his last chance to represent his country in any international tournament. But it’s also his first chance to work with the Orioles’ pitching staff.
“That’s a tough situation, but his allegiance now is to the Baltimore Orioles and that’s going to take up a lot more time (than playing) for your country,” Dempsey said.
If it were his call, Dempsey said he would have told Castillo he couldn’t go – but it doesn’t really work that way. Ultimately, it’s the player’s choice.
“You’re talking about a new guy coming into a new organization and seeing a whole bunch of new guys. It is the most important part of the game: pitcher/catcher relationship. And if he’s not there, we’re putting ourselves behind the eight ball,” Dempsey said.
“I think they absolutely should not have allowed him to go, (but) there’s really not much you can do about it. But it is so important for the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East, in that division, to have better communication between pitchers and catchers and better awareness on the part of the catcher on what to expect, because that’s what’s going to take us to the finish line.”
Dempsey said he likes the idea of an international baseball tournament in theory, but, in practicality, the WBC disrupts spring training and can put some players at an added risk for injury.
“I think the timing is awful,” Dempsey said. “For spring training, you just take such a chance of guys not really being ready to play.”