Spenser Watkins is living the dream with the Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Spenser Watkins is living the dream with the Orioles

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Spenser Watkins will get his second major league start on Sunday, the final game before the All-Star break. Watkins, a 28-year-old right-hander, nearly quit baseball during the pandemic and was one of many players signed to a minor league contract before spring training.

He began his season at Triple-A Norfolk and watched teammates Jay Flaa, Mickey Jannis and Konner Wade get brief trials while he waited.

“My initial thought for all those guys was that’s amazing,” Watkins said. “That’s a great opportunity. I’ve been lucky enough to see guys get their opportunities, and that’s one of my favorite memories of my career is to see certain guys get their opportunities … I never had the thought of, ‘Where’s my opportunity?’ I had the thought of, ‘I hope mine is coming soon. I hope I’m doing enough to get that opportunity.’

“I talked it over with my wife, and I said it makes me even more hungry to get there. In a sense, it lit a fire for me to continue to get better and to continue to work and show that I belonged here.”

Watkins credits his wife, Brittany, for helping him with his journey through the minor leagues, which began in 2014 when the Detroit Tigers chose him in the 30th round from Western Oregon University.

His wife, a technical support engineer, has basically supported him—until now.

“I’m extremely lucky in the sense that I have had my wife kind of pick up the slack in a sense for me to fulfill my dream and continue to work towards my dream,” Watkins said. “I think we’ve always had those conversations of, ‘I’ll get you later.’ Hopefully, this will be worth it in the long run.

“I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have her, and what she’s sacrificed for me to be able to do this. This is a reward for both of us. I’ve been pretty much been using her as my flotation device as we get through.”

Watkins wasn’t a top prospect. The 30th-round draft choice did get a bonus, “$1,000 before taxes and a plane ticket,” he said. “I couldn’t have been happier at the time. I said, ‘Awesome, they want to give me some money to go play professional baseball, no doubt. ‘ At the time, I would have taken a jersey and an opportunity. It was great, and then I saw the check come in after taxes, and said, ‘This doesn’t look the same anymore.’”

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Watkins said his parents helped him develop his work ethic. “It was always instilled from my parents that if you want something, you have to work towards it … Never do anything half-assed. If you’re going to do something, you’re going to give every bit of yourself until someone says no or it’s just not the right choice.”

In his first start last Tuesday, Watkins allowed a run on three hits in the Orioles’ 7-5 win over Toronto. With injuries to John Means and Bruce Zimmermann and ineffectiveness by the remaining starters, there’s a chance for Watkins to stay in the rotation.

“If you’re pitching well, it’s going to be pretty easy to stay here right now,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “If you come in and show you can pitch well here, you’re going to have the opportunity to go back out, just like Watkins did his last start. We’re looking for pitching, there’s no doubt about it, looking for guys to be able to navigate through American League East lineups, which is not easy to do.”

Now that Watkins is here, he’s enjoying it.

“It’s everything I ever dreamed of, plus some,” Watkins said. “It truly is the same game that I’ve been playing for so long, but it’s that I’ve gotten that validation of, ‘You can compete at the highest level. You’ve been training  your  whole life to get to the highest level, and you need to do this.’

“It’s everything you’re missing in the minor leagues,” Watkins said. “They give you that level of comfort. It’s not necessarily a grind. We’re still grinding through 162 games in a year every year but you have the comfort aspect. You have the charter planes. You have the nicer buses if you’re just traveling to and from the airport. Maybe it’s a little bit more food here, more things readily available.”

Watkins worked through the Tigers’ farm system, stopping at Low-A West Michigan and High-A Lakeland in three consecutive seasons. He’s gotten to see the difference between the big leagues and the minors.

“I think strength of teams as a whole,” he said. “In the minor leagues, you’ll find they have three really good hitters that can hurt you, and that’s it, but up here, it’s 1 through 9 can hurt you. You’re facing quality all the way through, no matter who gets put into this level. Everyone who’s up here is up here deservedly. The quality and the consistency of the game is what the difference is.”

Even though he didn’t come from a baseball powerhouse, he was surprised when he reported to the Tigers’ Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League.

“At first, when I was younger, it was, ‘Where’s the flash? Where’s the flare?’ This is supposed to be pro ball. These fields are like you’re playing on a high school field.

“As I got older, I just learned to appreciate the opportunity. Getting older, going to those fields, I more so took the approach of, ‘I’m already here, I might as well do very best with the place that I’m at, and what’s going on at the time.’

“As I got older, I matured more and I was able to approach it, ‘Let’s get my work in, no matter what the situation is, whether I’m in Beloit, Wisconsin or whether I’m at Camden Yards in Baltimore.’ That’s helped turn my mentality into — no matter where I’m at, no matter where I am that day, my work is my work.”

After Sunday’s game, Watkins will get an unexpected All-Star break, and he’s going to put it to practical use. He’ll drive to Norfolk and get the rest of his clothes. When he was called up, he was on a five-day road trip with the Tides and had clothes for only five days.

He’ll get to do some laundry, bring some clothes back to Baltimore for the Orioles’ next road trip to Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

“That way, maybe I can wear more than three fitted shirts over a two-week span,” Watkins said.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Tileman

    July 11, 2021 at 7:37 am

    Kudos to Watkins for his first win. Let’s hoist a cold one at one o’clock in hope that he brings us his second.
    Love Pepsi in the summer

  2. CalsPals

    July 11, 2021 at 7:50 am

    Great story, maybe we should have his parents talk to Mikey about halfassing things, they did well with their kiddo…go O’s…

  3. Orial

    July 11, 2021 at 8:41 am

    Good writeup Rich. Kinda guy you root for. Many young pitchers premier and baffle their opponent it’s those 2nd,3rd outings that define their future. White Sox are a perfect opponent to gauge Watkins’ progress–they take pitches/don’t swing for the fences,etc.(similar to Red Sox). I’ll be hoping and praying but not holding my breath.

    • OhMy!

      July 11, 2021 at 5:33 pm

      The White Sox do see more pitches per PA than average, however the Red Sox see less than average. Here to help of course…

  4. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 11, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Awesome story!!! It goes to show, if you pitch well, you’ll get more opportunities. Maybe the other pitching minor leaguers will heed the lesson here!! And hopefully this sinks in for Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther and others experiencing the shuttle.
    Funny that he mentioned half assing things, maybe Dan Duquette can read this and see where he put this franchise. One of the best players in the game Manny Machado traded away for basically nothing so far. Yusniel Diaz the “highlight” batting near the Mendoza line at Triple-A and can’t stay healthy. Dean Kremer has nearly a 7 ERA so far this season and back in the minors. Boston did the same with Mookie Betts and look where they are! One of the best closers in the game Zack Britton also traded away for basically nothing. Keven Gausman traded away and he’s one of the better pitchers in the game. Another traded away Jake Arrieta became a CY Young pitcher. First round pick DJ Stewart batting .207 and a strikeout machine. Played 62 games and has 61 strikeouts!
    Duquette left this team in shambles and now Mike Elias has to clean up this mess!!! Most losses in a season in team history is on Duquette’s watch and finally got fired for this. And all the idiots blaming Elias for this mess because they can’t see beyond their own noses what a rebuild is all about.

    • Jersery O

      July 11, 2021 at 10:36 am

      Nice and very accurate post.

    • Hallbe62

      July 11, 2021 at 1:07 pm

      That’s certainly one way to look at it. There are other assessments out there with regard to both Duquette & Elias.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      July 11, 2021 at 1:08 pm

      A casual follower of this team could read your commentary and say; “yep. that’s true.”

      However there is another layer of truth to this sad chapter in the team’s recent history. Dan Duquette did make those deals, and yes the players that came this way are clearly lesser lights.

      It is inaccurate to blame all of this on Duquette. He was forced to hold onto #13, O’Day, Britton and Gausman because the Owner refused to let Duquette trade them the previous Trade Deadline which was the absolutely right time to move those players. Trading them a year earlier would have returned a haul of young players that would have obviated the need for the tear-down we are now enduring…

      The reason they didn’t trade them a year earlier is that the senile and arrogant Owner was led to believe by the passive-aggressive, back-stabbing weasel of a Manager that they could still compete for a Championship–which we all knew was not going to happen.

      Lot’s of ugliness to go around for a lot of people, but this whole ugly Chapter began looong before the Sons hired Elias–who is an extremely sharp operator who we should all be grateful that he is representing the Orioles..

      That’s right–I said it.

      • OhMy!

        July 11, 2021 at 5:34 pm

        Very good post, respectful of both Duquette and Elias. Accurately characterizing Buck IMO, but that’s subjective…

  5. Tileman

    July 11, 2021 at 9:46 am

    FYI In 1914 on July 10th the Orioles traded The Babe to the Red Sox which surrenders any thought of what the worst trade in Orioles history is/was, Elias is officially off the hook

    • Jersery O

      July 11, 2021 at 10:38 am

      You mean Duquette. And the 1914 Orioles were not a Major League team.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 11, 2021 at 11:09 am

      IMO, the worst trade by a current/modern version of an Oriole team was for a man named Davis. No not that Davis.

      Glenn Davis cost us Finley, Schilling and Harnisch. Ouch.

    • Raveonjo

      July 11, 2021 at 12:50 pm

      Just following up on Jersey O. The minor league Orioles didn’t trade Babe Ruth to the Red Sox; They sold him. That’s what minor league teams did before Branch Rickey’s innovation. They scouted local talent in hopes of not only winning games and attracting fans but also attracting potential major league buyers. They would also purchase players from teams in the lower minors. Selling Ruth was a prudent (and inevitable) move by Oriole boss Jack Dunn.

  6. Buzz1979

    July 11, 2021 at 9:49 am

    Gausman is a fluke, it won’t last. For many of these guys, we are the last stop before baseball oblivion. If the Orioles don’t want you, nobody does. See Wilkerson, Ethelman, etc!

  7. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 11, 2021 at 11:04 am

    More name calling by the Elias side and younger generation.

    • CalsPals

      July 11, 2021 at 11:20 am

      :)…All-Star…go O’s…

  8. CalsPals

    July 11, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Don’t read the wrong things into this, definitely can’t stand the Yankees, but totally loved Cole being adamant with Boone that he wanted to finish a 1-0 game when visited on the mound in the 9th…say what you want, our guys don’t argue to finish the 5th…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 11, 2021 at 11:45 am

      Speaking of the Yankees …well sort of.

      You know, I probably shouldn’t complain since I don’t make too many home games anymore … but it’s bad enough to hear Yankee and Red Sox fans drowning out the Oriole fans at home games in Camden Yards ….but how bad has it become when the Chicago White Sox have enough representation in the stands to drown out the Oriole faithful? And on Hawaiian shirt giveaway night to boot?

    • CalsPals

      July 11, 2021 at 11:55 am

      Agree, nice to see over 26,000 but how many where O’s fans? A lot of Hawaiian shirts on eBay already, sad…go O’s..

  9. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 11, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    More name calling on Elias that started this half ass bs! And where is Dan Duquette today. Came out of obscurity, 9 years, to GM the Orioles and can’t even get a job at the major or minor league level today, now that should tell you everything about him. Not even as a scout or assistant GM.

    • OhMy!

      July 11, 2021 at 5:40 pm

      Okay you win worst/inaccurate post today. Duquette came out of obscurity after being with the Brewers 80-87, Expos 87-94, Red Sox 94-02. MLB Executive of the Year 1992, yup that’s obscurity all right…lmao

      The worst/inaccurate post shoe fits your post ON1F

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 11, 2021 at 6:41 pm

        Yeah, he did all that then got fired. Then 9 years later as baseball passed him by, got another job as GM of the Orioles. I call that coming out of obscurity or left field! Obscurity – A person who is not famous and who few people know.

  10. OriolesNumber1Fan

    July 11, 2021 at 12:29 pm

    I didn’t mention anyone’s name here but, as the old saying goes, if the shoe fits – wear it!

    • CalsPals

      July 11, 2021 at 1:45 pm

      You’re right, if the foot fits, wear it…lol…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 11, 2021 at 5:43 pm

        Logic escapes this guy. Not a usual trait of a ‘coder’.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          July 11, 2021 at 6:49 pm

          Logic – the systematic use of symbolic and mathematical techniques to determine the forms of valid deductive argument. I do this in my job every day.
          You wouldn’t know logic if it hit you between your eyes.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 11, 2021 at 6:15 pm

        BC – I normally agree with you on this site regarding your opinions on the Orioles. But, I have to disagree with you regarding your name calling of Buck Showalter.
        But Showalter has earned a reputation for building baseball teams into postseason contenders in short periods of time. Cripe he even did this in his abbreviated first season with the Orioles. He turned 14 years of losing records into a 93 wins season in less than 1 1/2. Also, he never back-stabbed anyone. I’m sure he had different opinions regarding the Orioles than Dan Duquette but to call him a backstabber is total BS.
        And I remember Buck turning down the GM job before it was even offered to DD. Per Ken Rosenthal – “Showalter is “still fluid” and the manager could still be convinced to take on the GM’s job.”
        What Peter Angelos should have done was hire a GM with Buck’s blessing instead of hiring someone who hasn’t been in the business for 9 years.
        And as far as “hanging on” to teams past their window, that’s ALL PETER ANGELOS and not Buck Showalter. Peter Angelos did this same thing back in 1998 when he thought the Orioles would continue to win and did not! Way, way, way before Buck Showalter was ever thought to be manager. So, any “casual” fan or big time fan – would know this to be true!
        And to not get anything for all the players I mentioned at the trade deadline, that’s all on Dan Duquette.
        When Mookie Betts was presented with a long-term offer to become a lifer in Boston, he said no. When the Red Sox approached him in each of the next couple of years trying to sign him during arbitration, Betts again said no. Same thing pretty much happened with Manny Machado, but he wanted to go to free agency, period. Duquette knew this all along. So did PA so you can’t blame this on no one but himself. LA offered Alex Verdugo as the “headliner” along with Gavin Lux or Dustin May, and DD said no.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 11, 2021 at 6:17 pm

        You can stick your foot in your azz then in your mouth! Lol

  11. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 11, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    One out in the 5th … and Hyde pull Watkins. Pitch count 83. Uh … why?

    • ClayDal

      July 11, 2021 at 3:18 pm

      White Sox took out their pitcher after 85 pitches. And he hadn’t given up a hit since the first. And LaRussa is old school. Or he’s just old

  12. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 11, 2021 at 4:19 pm

    Boom Boom!

    • jimcarter

      July 11, 2021 at 5:07 pm

      Best record in the American League without Robert, Madrigal, Grandal and Jimenez. I’d say the old hall of famer still knows how to manage.

  13. dlgruber1

    July 11, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    I didn’t see the game as I was actually at a movie theater for the 1st time since 2019 but it looks as tho Watkins did another pretty good job. Although 83 pitches is a bit high for 4.1 innings his line looked pretty good. He absolutely deserves an extended look after the break. By that I mean I hope if he gets roughed up in his next start he’s not onto the Norfolk shuffle. Looking at box score it looks like a very tough loss to a really good team but they certainly showed a lot of heart. I would’ve loved to see Mancini’s game tying 2 run 2 out homer. Well, everyone enjoy a brief vacation from baseball, especially Rich. You deserve a good break.

    • OhMy!

      July 11, 2021 at 5:41 pm

      A reasonable post from dlgruber1, I am calling for the paddles!!! Nice post dlg

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