BALTIMORE—As part of his new job as senior adviser to the Orioles, Brooks Robinson got to present an award named after him to the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year on Saturday. Robinson hadn’t met Cedric Mullins, the winner, until just before a press conference where the winners of minor league awards had gathered.
Robinson, who presented the award to Mullins in an on-field ceremony before the game, has been impressed by his play.
“I know he can play center field,” Robinson said. “It just depends on how he’s going to hit. I saw him hit that double last night. That would have been a long single for me when I was playing. He just needs the opportunity.
“I draw a parallel. When I signed in ’55, they had lost 100 games in ’54. They lost close to 100 the next year. It gives the opportunity for a lot of people to play here in the big leagues. That’s what it’s all about if we’re going to start a rebuild. He loves to play, and that’s it.”
Robinson doesn’t get to many games, but said that he’s seen Mullins play often on television.
“He was excited a little bit,” Robinson said. “I’m happy for him. I pull for him.”
In 1955, the year Robinson signed, the Orioles lost 97 games, and it wasn’t until 1960 that the team contended. He drew some similarities between the Orioles of then and today.
“There should be a great optimism,” Robinson said. “I don’t get down here enough to see it in the clubhouse. I went to spring training in ’56. We had a lot of kids. They all knew, ‘hey, there’s a chance.’
“I’m sure that’s what they’re saying in the Oriole clubhouse. It’s a chance. That’s all they want. You never know. You look at a kid, and say, ‘how is he going to make the big leagues?’ And the next thing you know he’s playing.”
The Orioles have so many new players that Robinson doesn’t know all of their names, and he realizes that a rebuild can be painful.
“We make a lot of mistakes, baserunning,” Robinson said. “I think when they first get here, the game is a little fast … and harder, and that’s what it seems to me. They’ve just got to try to relax and play the way they did in the minor leagues. The kid at third base, [Renato] Nunez, made some great plays over there. What it all comes down [to] is how much you’re going to hit. That might take a while. That’s the big deal.”
Besides Mullins, who hit .289 at Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk before he debuted with the Orioles on Aug. 10, the team named co-minor league pitchers of the year, left-handers Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther in an award named after Jim Palmer.
Akin, who had a 14-7 record and 3.27 ERA, was named the Eastern League’s Pitcher of the Year, and Lowther was a combined 8-4 with a 2.18 ERA at Low-A Delmarva and Advanced-A Frederick.
Shorebirds outfielder Zach Jarrett, son of former NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett, won the community service award named after late Orioles player and coach Elrod Hendricks. The elder Jarrett won the Daytona 500 three times. Zach Jarrett’s maternal grandfather played in the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization.
“I learned a lot from him,” Jarrett said about his father. “I can remember being a kid, four or five years on his hip, walking through the infield and he stopped to sign autographs and let people take pictures. It definitely left an impact.”
Norfolk manager Ron Johnson and Rich Morales, a scout who signed Mullins, Austin Wynns and Ryan Meisinger, were also recognized.