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Everyone in Baltimore is talking about the Ravens, and that includes the Orioles. Even though only left-handed pitcher Bruce Zimmermann is from Baltimore, that doesn’t stop the American League East champions from supporting the Ravens—at least most of them.
Manager Brandon Hyde grew up as a rabid San Francisco 49ers fan during the years when Joe Montana and Steve Young led the Niners to five Super Bowl wins. He’s living in Florida and working in Baltimore now, and he’s excited about the Ravens.
After participating in the Orioles’ Birdland Caravan on Thursday and Friday, Hyde was in New York on Saturday to accept his American League Manager of the Year award at the New York Baseball Writers’ dinner. Sunday morning, he’ll train back to Baltimore, where he and his son Colton will root for the Ravens against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Hyde will be pulling for longtime Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who is also an Orioles fan.
“I can’t wait for Sunday,” Hyde said on Thursday. “Me and John texted back and forth during both of our seasons, and I’m looking forward to seeing them play. I’ve really enjoyed watching them this year. I told him, just how tough they are, the toughness that this team has. They’re just really fun to watch and I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
Harbaugh repaid the compliment at Friday’s practice in Owings Mills.
“I’m a big Orioles fan, obviously,” Harbaugh said. “I loved watching what they did this year [101 wins and AL East champs]. They’re amazing. I love those players.
“We love the Orioles. Brandon’s a really good friend. I really have so much respect for him. It’s good that he’s going to be there.”
When Hyde arrived back in town on Wednesday night, he noticed the city awash in purple lights and got excited.
“It’s great to see the season that they’re having. It’s great for the city of Baltimore, I know that. It’s great to have the fans that are so passionate about us, and we’ve really felt that over the second half of this last year and the postseason.
“We were on notice. Everybody’s watching. It’s great to see. It’s great to hear.”
Grayson Rodriguez and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker became friends when Rodriguez was in the minor leagues. Although he grew in Texas, he’s adopted the Ravens, even if it means upsetting another starting pitcher, John Means, who’s from suburban Kansas City.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of trash talking,” Rodriguez said. “There already has been a lot.”
While neither Rodriguez nor Means was planning on attending Sunday, that won’t stop the bickering.
“It should be so good. The Ravens look so good,” Means, the avid Chiefs fan, said. “It should be a fun game. I can’t wait for it. I’m going to go home. I’ve got my lucky spot on the couch to sit in.”
Zimmermann, who describes himself as a lifelong Ravens fan, will take several of his teammates to the game, including reliever Nick Vespi, who watched Lamar Jackson play in high school in South Florida.
“It’s pretty awesome to have two teams in the same city when they’re competing like this,” Zimmermann said. “We get to go to their games and some of those guys came to late-season games. Go Birds, and hopefully take down the Taylor Swift empire.”
Means eager to start 2024: Because of his April 2022 Tommy John surgery, Means has thrown only 31 2/3 innings the past two seasons. He’s predicting that he’ll return to full health in 2024.
Means was removed from the Orioles’ roster for the American League Division Series in October because his elbow was tight, and he reports all is well now.
“I feel really good,” he said. “I had a nice buildup this offseason, and I should be ready to go.”
Means pitched 146 2/3 innings in 2021, and in his rookie season, threw 155 in 2019. He thinks that’s more like it for 2024.
“I’m ready to go. I’ll be ready to go on Day One,” he said.
Means should join Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer and perhaps Tyler Wells in the rotation.
“We did pretty well last year, so I think the guys we have there are going to get better and better, It’s a young team. It’s going to be good,” he said.
Means is approaching free agency and said he’d like to stay with the Orioles.
“Of course. I love this organization,” he said. “It’s all that I know. I’m just looking forward to this year, though, and take it day-by-day.”
Means has been with the organization for 10 years. He was an 11th-round draft pick in 2014 and made his debut in September 2018.
“It’s so fun to watch. I was there for the dog days in ’19 and ’20 and ’21,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of fans in the stands, and now to watch Camden Yards packed and the noise, and all these fans in the street wearing Orioles gear, it’s fun to see.”
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