FORT MYERS, Fla.—The last time Jonathan Schoop saw the Orioles was last July 31, when a trade to the Milwaukee Brewers at the deadline took him by surprise.
Schoop, a fan favorite, was shaken by the trade and had a difficult time adjusting in Milwaukee. He was cut loose at the end of November and signed a one-year, $7.5-million contract with the Minnesota Twins within a week.
On Monday, before the Twins played the Orioles in a Grapefruit League game, Schoop saw a new Orioles team and few players with whom he played. But, as usual, he looked on the bright side.
“I feel good. See your old teammates, see your coaches and the trainers,” Schoop said. “I’m happy to see them and excited.”
After the Orioles traded Manny Machado, Schoop was left without his longtime friend. After Zack Britton and Brad Brach had been traded, many thought the team was done dealing. But Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day were traded, too.
Schoop, who had been voted Most Valuable Oriole and the team’s lone All-Star in 2017, struggled at the beginning of the 2018 season. He’d just been voted American League Player of the Week when he was traded.
His .244 average with 17 home runs and 44 RBIs with the Orioles weren’t up to his standards, but they were far better than his time with the Brewers. In 46 games, Schoop hit .202 with four home runs and 21 RBIs. In Milwaukee’s postseason run that took them to within a game of the World Series, Schoop was hitless in eight at-bats.
“It’s like walking into a new school,” Schoop said about his difficult time with the Brewers. “You know most of the guys because you play against them. It was a tough a little, but it helped me be a better player.”
When Milwaukee didn’t offer him a contract, Schoop signed with the Twins. The Orioles didn’t reach out. He’s happy with his choice.
“A couple of teams were asking about me, and they made me an offer,” Schoop said. “ I feel that this was the best fit. They’ve got really good guys, the young talent. I think they fit right in with me. The manager called me and talked to me, make me an offer, and the decision was quick.”
Even though many of his Oriole friends are gone, he wishes them well.
“Young teammates, new manager, I’m excited for them,” Schoop said. “I’m happy for my old teammates, the ones that are left. I wish them the best. I start a new journey. It’s fun so far. I’m looking forward to this season.”
Schoop was distraught when the Orioles traded Machado at the All-Stat break, separating them for the first time. He faced Machado in the National League Championship Series, and he is delighted with the 10-year, $300-million contract Machado signed last week with the San Diego Padres.
“I’m really happy for Manny, really happy for him,” Schoop said. “I’m happy for him, a new journey for him, too. He will have fun, for sure.”
Another old friend, Bobby Dickerson, who tutored Schoop in the minor leagues and was the Orioles third base coach and infield instructor, wasn’t retained when Brandon Hyde took over as manager. Dickerson was hired as Philadelphia’s infield coach.
“Bobby is like my daddy,” Schoop said. “Since I was 16, Bobby made me the player I am. He calmed me down. I’m happy that he got a job…I think Bobby deserved it He’s a really good coach.”
In Minnesota, Schoop has been reunited with Nelson Cruz, who had a spectacular 2014 season with the Orioles. It was Schoop’s rookie season, and Cruz mentored him.
“It’s like the old times, like 2014 and the Orioles, so it’s fun,” Schoop said. “Me and him, we have a lot of fun. I know for sure. We’re excited for the season. We’re excited to be back with each other and do a lot of handshakes after home runs.”
Schoop has often cited Cruz’s steady hand, and at 27, he knows he still has much he can learn.
“Of course, he helped a lot, that’s no secret,” Schoop said. “He helped a lot, Manny, too. Cruz was the guy who helped when I was a rookie. He helped me a lot. It’s good for me to have him right now, the maturity I have right now, and for him to keep helping me. I kind of know what I’m doing, but with his experience and his talent, I will be more consistent.”