Like many baseball players, Orioles pitcher Zac Lowther has a Twitter page. He’s not shy about offering his opinions. He was upset that teammate Ryan Mountcastle wasn’t among the three finalists for American League Rookie of the Year: “How do the players vote Mountcastle as AL ROY but SOMEHOW doesn’t make it to the finalist list?” he tweeted.
He applauded the announcement that players in the lower minor leagues would have housing provided for them beginning in 2022.
But what Lowther is really known for on Twitter is his aggressive collecting of baseball cards.
The cards that you and I collected when we were 10 or 11 that contained a stick of stale bubblegum aren’t what Lowther, a 25-year-old left-hander, is after. He’s using Twitter to conduct drafts for people like him, passionate collectors.
Lowther loved baseball cards as a boy because he loved baseball. When he became more committed to the game in high school, he put them aside.
“My dad was always a serious collector. He’d get us the Cleveland Indians team set,” said Lowther, who was born in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. “We’d go to spring training to get all those signed.”
Lowther never stopped loving cards but began collecting memorabilia for his room. “After I got my first card when I got signed, that’s when I got back into it,” he said. “I had my own card. It was the coolest thing for me and my parents.”
Lowther was drafted in the second round from Xavier University in 2017 and resumed his collecting with a passion last year. While he has some of his boyhood cards and some his father has given him, he’s now mixing business with pleasure.
He tries to get his teammates and opponents to autograph their cards for him.
“I try to find rare cards or really cool cards that I think look good,” he said. “They might not be the most valuable, but they’re fun to look at: ‘Hey, I got to pitch against him.’ That’s a cool way to bring it full circle.”
Lowther’s collection includes about 800 cards, but it’s quality not quantity. He and his wife, Brianna, and their 10-month-old daughter, Isabelle, live near Cleveland in a small home with not much room for a massive collection. His father, Marc, has the bigger home with the bigger collection.
“It’s going in my future mancave and my dad’s basement,” he said of his cards. “It’s been a long road, so we get to experience the joy of getting to a spot where we always dreamt of being.”
Lowther hasn’t been to a baseball card show. “I didn’t know they were a thing until this year,” he said. “It would be cool to go just to see some personal collections and why they collect it.”
Some players will trade autographed bats, balls or jerseys to opponents, but there aren’t many card collectors.
“It’s not as prevalent because it is thought of as a younger kid’s thing,” he said., “It’s starting to get to the adult side.”
In pre-Covid days, card collectors would hang around ballparks, waiting to get cards signed. Some players are eager to sign.
“If they’re polite and respect my time, and are nice about it, I have no problem doing it,” Lowther said. “Sometimes you have the older crowd that wants your autograph just to sell it. They have binders full of your card and they want as many autographs as possible. You have to pay attention.
“I love signing for little kids just because that was me when I was growing up,” Lowther said. “I want to do that for them because when I was growing up, guys would do that for me.”
The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, a few blocks from Oriole Park, is scheduled to receive a 1914 Babe Ruth card that’s valued at more than $6 million to display in 2022.
Lowther’s card wish list doesn’t contain anything that pricey.
“Right now, I’m trying to get guys that I have personally played against because it means more to me,” he said. “It’s more sentimental if I can get a really cool card and get it signed. That’s more valuable to me than some of these graded cards and cards that are going for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I do it for the experience and the hobby of it. I got to experience playing against this guy, and I have his autograph to go with that experience.”
Lowther got into 10 games with the Orioles and had a 1-3 record with a 6.67 ERA. He had four stints with the team but stayed with them for the final four weeks of the season and ended with two strong starts.
“Mentally and physically, it was just draining,” he said. He missed time because of a strained left shoulder but took that as a positive.
“It gave me a hard reset in terms of my mind and my body,” he said. “That led to me become more comfortable in the second half and September.
“I was very pleased with the end of my season just from the standpoint of being able to get into a rhythm and I knew how to prepare,” he said. “I knew what I needed to do. The results of a long season mentally and physically were starting to come together. It wasn’t all there, but there were a lot of very positive things that I could take from it going into spring training and going into the season next year.”
Stewart update: Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart underwent right knee surgery six weeks ago and will be in Sarasota this week for his follow-up. According to the Orioles: “He is achieving all relevant clinical milestones” and should be running by the end of this month. Stewart should begin some baseball activity in early January, the team said.
Minor league free agents: Besides catcher Nick Ciuffo and right-handed pitcher Spenser Watkins, eight other Orioles minor leaguers declared for free agency. Three briefly played for the Orioles in 2021, right-handed pitchers Manny Barreda, Mickey Jannis and Dusten Knight.
Right-hander Gray Fenter, who was selected and later returned by the Chicago Cubs in last December’s Rule 5 draft, is also a minor league free agent along with right-handers Claudio Custodio and Steven Klimek, left-hander Ty Blach, who pitched for the Orioles in 2019, and first baseman Ryan Ripken.
Recent former Orioles on the minor league free-agent list include: outfielder John Andreoli, shortstop Tim Beckham, right-hander Aaron Brooks, outfielder Keon Broxton, right-handers Cody Carroll and Jay Flaa, third baseman Maikel Franco, left-hander Sean Gilmartin, shortstop José Iglesias, second baseman Domingo Leyba, catchers Caleb Joseph and Francisco Peña, right-handers Luis Ortiz, Yefry Ramirez and Chandler Shepherd, catcher Andrew Susac, outfielder Mason Williams and right-handers Asher Wojciechowski and Vance Worley