Minor Monday: Baltimore's Maxwell Costes hopes to become rare home-grown Oriole - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Minor Monday: Baltimore’s Maxwell Costes hopes to become rare home-grown Oriole

Photo Credit: Patrick Stevens

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Maxwell Costes will be the first to say it: He wasn’t expecting to get to Double-A so quickly.

The former Gilman School and University of Maryland star zipped through Single-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen in his first full season as a professional, and is hoping to use the final month of the season at Bowie to set himself up for successful 2024.

Not to mention taking in some experiences he wasn’t anticipating, such as his August 8th Baysox debut.

“My first game at Richmond was in front of 8,500 people,” Costes said. “Guy on the mound is throwing 100. I’m hitting in front of Cedric Mullins and Tyler Wells is on the mound. I came from growing up playing on concrete because there’s no baseball fields in Baltimore City, so I took rubber balls and practiced on parking lots. All the sudden, I’m playing with two All-Stars. I’m going ‘Man, what’s going on?’”

Then he went out and got three hits that night, a tale he related with amazement during Bowie’s last homestand.

There’s a little bit of wide-eyed wonder and a lot of infectious enthusiasm to the first baseman, who scattered his name across Maryland’s record book during his time in College Park. He was a first team all-Big Ten selection while earning league freshman of the year honors in 2019. He’s No. 2 in school history in homers and walks and third in RBIs. And no Terp has ever been plunked with more pitches (67) than Costes.

But there’s a definite studiousness and seriousness to how he approaches baseball. Chances are, he’ll have a bat and glove with him at most times, which is not out of the ordinary. But he is also devoted to a taking notes on everything he does to pin down anything unusual.

It’s a change from his time before joining the Baltimore organization last summer, and in some ways is a natural extension of the discipline of a routine established (with the help of coaches and other staff) at Maryland.

“There were a lot of times where I would find it and then I’d lose it really fast, then find it and lose it,” Costes said. “It’s honestly because I wasn’t very consistent in my daily habits. I like to call it being unconsciously competent. When I was doing something well, I couldn’t explain why I was doing well. I was just doing it well. Here, I want to become consciously competent.”

That means tracking every drill he does and how many swings he takes while doing so. It means an honest reckoning of how and why he gets out, and provides an opportunity to find a pattern before two bad games become two rough weeks.

Costes hit his way out of Delmarva in a hurry, slashing .368/.435/.526 in six games to earn a May 1st promotion to Aberdeen. There was an adjustment required with the IronBirds; he hit .190 in 42 at bats in May, but figured things out before long.

A strong July —.283/.353/.739 — that included six home runs helped him get elevated again earlier this month. Overall, he had nine home runs in 132 at bats in Aberdeen, a solid bit of pop that contributed to an .871 OPS at that level.

And now, a little more than a year after signing with the Orioles as an undrafted free agent, he’s playing home games within a 15- and 20-minute drive of plenty of friends from College Park. And the whole going unselected thing? Maybe it stung a little in the moment, but Costes is well aware plenty of good players go undrafted. Plus, he’s playing for his hometown organization.

“At the end of the day, it’s not something I look back on and I guess want retribution or anything like that,” Costes said. “I don’t carry myself in a way where I have to prove people wrong about me. Nah, bro. That’s a recipe for putting way too much stress on yourself.”

That maturity is impressive, and it flows in part from working on the mental side of a game with a psychologist starting during his freshman year at Maryland. Costes said that development was the biggest thing to happen to baseball career.

It provides a good explanation of how he can place situations in a healthy perspective. Take his time in Bowie, where he’s hitting .226 with six RBIs in 15 games through Sunday.

The numbers exist, but Costes is thinking about the big picture. The closing stretch is a chance to figure out what to work on, how to think through plate appearances differently and what areas need improvement as he heads into the offseason.

After all, a year with two promotions is already a successful one. Now comes the process of laying the foundation for the next one.

“Coming up, at the end of the season, I’m really not too concerned about being successful and putting up a 900-plus OPS,” Costes said. “A lot of this is like a learning experience for next year. This last month or so [is about] getting my feet wet and understanding the difference now that we’re at a higher level. Let’s be honest: A lot of the players never make it to this level.”

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