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From his MLB debut in May 2009 until last year’s playoff loss in Toronto, Matt Wieters has been the starting catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
That changed in February, when Wieters signed a two-year, $21 million deal (with a player opt-out after 2017) with the Washington Nationals after it was clear the Orioles had moved on with Welington Castillo as their new starting backstop.
Wieters, who turns 32 this month, has done well in the Nation’s Capital so far, hitting .274 with a .365 on-base percentage and four homers in his first 24 games.
Tonight, he returns to Camden Yards as a visitor for the first time in his career.
I talked with Wieters on Saturday afternoon about his pending return to Baltimore and his feelings toward the fans and the organization.
We also spoke about his transition to the National League, the Nationals’ hot start and the similarities and differences of playing for Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker, two of baseball’s more successful managers.
I also wanted to know his take on the 2017 Orioles, including his thoughts on the emergence of right-hander Dylan Bundy and the way Wieters’ buddy, Adam Jones, dealt with racial taunts in Boston.
We cover a lot of topics in this lengthy phone conversation. You can listen to the entire thing below or by downloading/subscribing to BaltimoreBaseball.com’s free podcasts on iTunes.
I’ve also included a few excerpts from the interview.
Here’s what Wieters said about Monday’s return: “It’s gonna be a range of emotions for sure, I think. I’m excited to be able to see a lot of the guys and coaches that I was used to going to the field every day to see and I haven’t seen them now for months. So, it will be good to see everybody and be able to get back to Oriole Park. The weirdest thing may be which dugout I come out, and the kind of view I get from the other side of the field there.”
On his relationship with Orioles’ fans: “They are great fans. They support their team and players, and I still remember the fact how loud that ovation was for Nick (Markakis) when he came back. It kind of tells you what Orioles fans are all about. … It is a family community over there in that clubhouse and in that stadium. And, even though I’m not part of that family anymore for this season, it’s still always going to be part of my growing up in the baseball world.”
On bittersweet feelings of leaving: “It’s kind of over with now, because I still believe that we’re in what place we’re in for a certain reason. And I really felt like God was moving me to go to Washington this offseason. And it seemed like all the cards were kind of going that way and eventually it got done there. But it was something to where … I was still always holding out hope that Baltimore would become an option. But it always just seemed that my path was going towards DC for this year.”
On Dylan Bundy’s emergence: “His mentality from the get-go last year was the mentality of a guy who you knew was going to have success if he could just stay healthy at this level. He had that bulldog mentality. His stuff speaks for itself, but I think his mentality for a young guy was leaps and bounds ahead of a lot of young pitchers that come into the league. He knew how to pitch from the get-go, even when he was 18 years old and I saw him in spring training, he knew how to pitch. That’s something to where he had some good teaching growing up somewhere, because he kind of came with the mentality of how to get guys out.”
On being managed by Showalter and Baker: “It’s been great. It’s been different. It’s made me realize that there’s not one way to skin a cat. There are so many different ways that you can manage. Having the baseball mind is great and being prepared is great. And I think the one thing that you’ll see with Dusty and with Buck is the best quality they have is they know how to manage people and they know how to manage players and get them where they are ready to play. The Xs and Os are great and the knowledge of the game is great to be a manager and that helps you out. But, at the same time, I think what I’ve seen from Dusty and Buck is they know how to get their players ready to turn it on at 7 o’clock.”