It took two plate appearances for Mac Horvath to smack his first home run in High-A ball after joining the Aberdeen IronBirds for the final week of the season earlier this month.
The next time he came up, he did it again.
“I could definitely see some surprised faces in the dugout,” said Matthew Etzel, who was teammates with Horvath for about a month at Class A Delmarva and was promoted to Aberdeen at the same time. “I was like ‘That’s kind of what he does.’”
It’s also what Baltimore hopes Horvath, a second-round pick out of North Carolina, can do repeatedly moving forward. He joined Etzel and first-rounder Enrique Bradfield Jr. in receiving a late promotion to Aberdeen after acing his first two stops in the Orioles’ organization after signing over the summer.
While primarily splitting time between second and third base (and also making appearances at the corner outfield spots), Horvath looked the part of a pro-ready hitter after debuting in the Florida Complex League last month.
In three games in rookie ball, Horvath was 5 for 9 with a homer and a pair of doubles. He wasn’t quite that efficient at Delmarva, but it was still an impressive 14-game stint. He hit .308 with two homers and five RBIs with the Shorebirds, and was also 9-for-9 on his stolen base attempts while posting a .422 on-base percentage.
“I think it was pretty comparable to college ball,” Horvath said. “Just kind of sticking with my approach there and working on some things that could potentially help me. But I think for the most part, just kind of trusting my game and getting right back into it.”
(“Comparable to college ball” was a pretty spot-on assessment; Horvath slashed .305/.418/.711 with 24 homers and 66 RBIs while converting 25 of his 29 steal attempts in the spring at North Carolina).
His slick work at Delmarva earned him a ticket to Aberdeen, where he was 4 for 17 in five games but reached safely via a hit or a walk in each game. He also swiped five more bases.
And then there was the initial power display at Ripken Stadium.
“Definitely felt good,” Horvath said. “It’s always good to get the first hit out of the way in the first game, but to have it be a homer definitely makes it a little more special.”
Horvath, like many high draft picks, had a good idea what to expect upon reaching the minor leagues. One of the more striking differences from college ball was the lack of class responsibilities, freeing up time to recover and do what was needed to prepare for each game.
That followed a stretch of about five weeks between the end of his college season and the draft when he took a little time away from baseball with family and friends. By his reckoning, it’s the last summer he’ll have free to do that for a while.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder stood out to another member of his draft class for his professional approach to the game, something that bodes well for his chances of working his way through Baltimore’s system.
“He has a calm demeanor,” Bradfield said. “He’s very focused, very intentional in the way he works, and that really stands out about him. He’s a great hitter and he’s very versatile in the field.”
And after his initial foray in the minors (during which he slashed .321/.455/.603 in 22 games) Horvath used his late promotion as a chance to help chart a path for his first professional winter. He took a few steps toward reaching the majors in the two months after being selected No. 53 overall in this year’s draft, and he’ll aim to take a couple more when the spring arrives and his first full pro season begins.
“Just getting with the coaches here and developing a plan going into the offseason here,” Horvath said. “Having it be my first true offseason, getting a plan we’re both on board with and just sticking with it the whole offseason.”
* Double-A Bowie’s season finale Sunday at Harrisburg was canceled because of rain. The Baysox went 67-70 for the season but remained in contention for the second half title entering the final week. Bowie went 36-32 in the second half, a stretch that included top prospect Jackson Holliday’s entire stint with the team.
* Triple-A Norfolk enters the final week of the second half five games behind Durham. The Tides are already assured of an International League playoff berth by virtue of winning the first half and will host a three-game championship series starting September 26th.