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Hundreds of Oriole fans crowded the Checkerspot Brewing Company, just south of M&T Bank Stadium, to buy a beer and get their pictures taken with players in the third day of the Birdland Caravan.
Many were wearing jerseys representing Adley Rutschman, who keyed the Orioles’ rise last season and finished second in the voting for American League Rookie of the Year.
“It’s just a buzz. It’s an energy that you feel, coming to events like this, you just see that people are excited,” Rutschman said. “When you feel that kind of encouragement and support, it only helps everyone come together and continue to try to do great things.”
Rutschman was joined by two young starters he hopes to catch in 2023, DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez. Along with Gunnar Henderson, who’s the early favorite for 2023 Rookie of the Year, Rutschman and the young starters will try to move the Orioles into the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“We have a bunch of guys that are extremely selfless, who are committed to make the team more important than themselves,” Rutschman said. “I think because of that, that’s why we get along so well together. We have so much fun. Regardless of a good or bad day, everyone’s got each other’s back and when it comes to a team activity, that’s the most important thing.”
Last year, Rutschman was held back by a sore right triceps muscle, which delayed his Orioles debut until May 21st. He ended the season with a .254 average with 13 home runs, 42 RBIs and an .806 OPS.
“It really worked out well. I think I was put there for a reason,” Rutschman said. “I went through what I went through for a reason, to be able to have the season I did, to be able to see the team progress, the coaches and everyone come together. It was a special year.”
Rutschman hopes to be there from the start this season, and it will be fascinating to see how he and his teammates adapt to rising expectations.
Rutschman will celebrate his 25th birthday on Monday.
“Everyone is a year older now,” he said. “I’m excited to see what everyone can do. The guys on this team are of high character. We come together well. I’m really excited to see what we’ve got.
“My goal is always to be the best version of myself, the best baseball player, the best human. Because of that, there’s always going to be room to improve. That’s the thing about baseball and life, you’re always going to have things to improve on, take the offseason, work as hard as you can, and we’ll see how this year goes.”
Rutschman isn’t certain what the best version of himself will be in 2023, but Oriole fans might be satisfied with some statistical improvements.
“That’s something I’m always chasing for,” Rutschman said. “I think you have a set of goals and ideals you set for yourself. You’re always going to fall short of that. The more you can strive to fit that ideal image, the better that you’re going to be for it.”
His second year in the majors should bring fewer unknowns.
“It definitely is different knowing what you’re going into,” Rutschman said. “Having the experience of last year, knowing what to expect this year is definitely a different feeling than the last couple of years because you’re always chasing the unknown of what the big leagues is going to hold. Hopefully, this year going in, knowing a little more, we can build off of last year.”
Rutschman spent the offseason back home in the Pacific Northwest, training and getting recharged.
“The opportunity to get better is always cherished,” Rutschman said. “It’s the perfect amount of time to miss the guys. We’re back now, just seeing everyone here together is so exciting. It’s refreshing to get back together.”
While pitchers and catchers don’t officially report until February 15th, Rutschman and others will gather in Sarasota ahead of time to work out.
“I think at every single level, whether it’s high school, college, pro ball, big leagues, there’s always going to be steps that you take and things that are very uncertain going in,” Rutschman said. “Once you’ve done it for a year or two years, however long, you’re going to become more comfortable and just know the routine. Coming into this year, I know the routine a little bit more. I’m definitely excited to get going.”
Birdland Caravan: The final day of the Birdland Caravan features a stop at the Crooked Crab at 8251 Telegraph Road, Suite D in Odenton from 4-6 p.m. on Sunday. Pitchers Bryan Baker, Félix Bautista, Joey Krehbiel, Dean Kremer, John Means and Dillon Tate, and outfielders Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins will attend. Vice president and assistant general manager for analytics Sig Mejdal and assistant general manager for baseball operations Eve Rosenbaum also will be there.
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