Garrett Stallings proudly points out that he grew up as an Orioles fan and a Norfolk Tides follower. Stallings is a 23-year-old right-hander from Chesapeake, Virginia, and regularly attended Tides games and saw his first major league game at Camden Yards when he was 7 or 8.
Stallings, who was obtained from the Los Angeles Angels along with right-hander Jean Pinto, 19, for shortstop José Iglesias on December 2nd, said his favorite players growing up were Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada.
“I went to plenty of Norfolk Tides games growing up,” Stallings said in a video conference call. “I was very excited when I got informed I was going to Baltimore. I played a few games there in high school.
“[As] a little kid, I couldn’t believe how fast those pitchers were throwing. It almost looked like it was a different game when I was watching. To me, being in this organization, and getting a chance to playing there myself, it’s a dream come true.”
For Stallings, the Orioles are a fit.
“It’s been pretty special,” he said. “The feedback from friends, family. My grandfather grew up in Baltimore … and for me growing up around the Tides, people are so excited to one day get an opportunity to one day see me pitch in a big-league park. I’ve heard nothing but love and excitement, and I feel the same way.”
Stallings was Los Angeles’ fifth-round draft pick in 2019. By design he didn’t pitch in the minors for the Angels that year, and didn’t pitch in 2020, either.
“The time away from the game helps you understand how much you love it,” he said.
“I think the Angels were doing the right thing. I threw a lot of innings. I had a lot of work on my back. I might not have gotten too much … from throwing 20, 30 more innings that year.
“It gave me the chance to finally work on the sport, the art of pitching without having to compete and get people out. It’s a tough sport. It’s not like you can go to the basketball gym and just shoot hoops for eight hours straight.
“Pitching is kind of a fine art where you can’t necessarily waste your bullets in training or the game. It gave me the [chance] to work on some parts of my game that I wasn’t necessarily able to work on in the past. When you cross that white line, it’s time to pitch against a hitter, it’s you versus me. You don’t have the time to sit there and focus on things you have to work on.”
Stallings was drafted after his junior year at the University of Tennessee. As a junior, he struck out 106 batters while walking only 16 in 102 2/3 innings. The year before, he struck out only 37 in 78 2/3 innings. He walked eight batters as a sophomore.
“I just knew I needed to change something if I wanted to have success and continue to play the game at a high level,” Stallings said. “I messed around my delivery a little bit. I knew I needed to throw the ball a bit harder. I added my curve ball again. Adding that pitch really solidified being able to punch more guys out.”
Three of the team’s first four draft picks in 2020 — outfielder Heston Kjerstad (second overall pick from Arkansas) and infielders Jordan Westburg (30th pick from Mississippi State) and Anthony Servideo (3rd round from Mississippi) — are from the Southeastern Conference.
Stallings thought he would go to an Atlantic Coast Conference school but he’s glad he went to an SEC school.
“There’s a certain competitive nature of the entire league,” Stallings said. “Definitely cool getting to travel around the East Coast and the SEC and play baseball at the highest level in college.”
Stallings spent the last month of the season at the Angels’ alternate site at Long Beach State. Although he had to wait out the Covid-19 protocols, he said it was a worthwhile experience.
“I was so pumped up because it was my first time pitching in a game in almost 15 months,” Stallings said. “It was a weird, bizarre situation for me.”
Stallings got to pitch in a simulated game at Angels Stadium.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said. “It was my first time facing live hitters in a game scenario in a long time. It was really a neat experience for me, being around major league players, being able to pick people’s brains and grow my game a little bit.”
Stallings joins two other pitchers he was drafted with — Zach Peek (6th round) and Kyle Brnovich (8th). Peek, Brnovich, Kyle Bradish and Isaac Mattson were traded to the Orioles for Dylan Bundy a year before Stallings was.
“We were together that first year,” Stallings said of Peek. “I was sad to see him get traded. Fortunately, I get to join him again in a new atmosphere. He’s reached out to me, congratulated me. I’ve talked to him and Kyle Brnovich some, laying out the land for me, answering any questions I’ve had. I’m excited to join those two again.”
Stallings said the move was “a little bit of a shock. I knew [my name] could have been thrown around in some trade talks, but when it happens, it still surprises you a bit. I’m very blessed and excited for the opportunity … It sounds like some good things are happening there, and I’m excited to join the team.”