Left-hander Brian Matusz had been to Camden Yards only once in his life - in August, when he was introduced to the crowd as the Orioles' newly signed first-round draft pick.
"I had so much going on that day," Matusz, 22, said. "I didn't have a chance to go around the ballpark, to see everything and check it out."
So in late May, with the Orioles in town and Matusz's Single-A Frederick Keys having the day off, he and Keys catcher Caleb Joseph drove to Baltimore to better inspect Oriole Park.
Matusz wanted to watch the pitchers throw side sessions in the bullpen before the game, but Orioles starter Brad Bergesen saw him and "pulled me into the clubhouse."
Before he knew it, Matusz was shaking hands with the big leaguers, guys he hadn't seen since he played with them this spring in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Nearly each greeting had a question attached: "Did you get called up?"
Matusz smiled sheepishly and answered, "No." He was only visiting.
He seemed embarrassed by the assumption, which further cements the Orioles' belief that they made the right move by picking him fourth overall in the 2008 amateur draft.
"The most impressive thing about him, for me, is his poise," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "We had him in big league camp, and he pitched there like he had pitched there for 10 years, yet in a very unassuming way."
MacPhail was clear about the club's plans for Matusz when they shipped him to minor league camp in March. He would start his pro career at Frederick, would likely go up to Double-A Bowie this year, and would be targeted for Triple-A Norfolk in 2010. It's similar to the path of 2007 first-round pick Matt Wieters, who made his Orioles debut May 29.
"We told him he's on the Wieters Plan, provided he does well at Frederick," MacPhail said. "We're not of the mind to keep somebody at one level if they have showed sustained competence at that level."
Matusz, a 6-foot-5 left-hander with command of four pitches, including a devastating curveball, has done his part. He is 4-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 11 starts. He hasn't allowed a run in his past three games and is in the midst of a 23 1/3-inning scoreless streak that dates to a fourth-inning solo homer May 20.
"I am starting to feel good," he said. "I feel like I have been in a groove, similar to where I was in college. I am definitely happy with how the process is going."
Matusz, who has struck out 75 batters while walking 21 in 66 2/3 innings, was one of a franchise-record-tying six Keys named Sunday to the Carolina/California League All-Star Game. Not bad for his first season as a pro.
"It is still the same game; I don't feel a huge difference at all," said Matusz, who led the NCAA in strikeouts in 2008 with the University of San Diego. "It's about making adjustments to different hitters, to be able to read bats and know guys' strengths. I am really not changing anything."
In the minors, the Orioles want Matusz to better use and command his low-90s fastball. Because his curve, changeup and, to a lesser extent, slider are so polished, he didn't throw his fastball in college as much as he'll have to in the pros.
"They really want me to establish it early on in games and not rely so much on my breaking stuff," Matusz said. "I feel I can throw [the fastball] in any count."
One year ago, Matusz was preparing to be selected in the amateur draft. Now he is among baseball's top pitching prospects.
"This has been the best year of my life so far," he said. "I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have this opportunity. For me, hopefully, soon, I'll fulfill my dream of pitching in the big leagues."
Perhaps next year when Matusz visits Camden Yards, he'll be there to stay.
"Hopefully," he said, "some day it will be my office."