Showalter gives Orioles something they can hold on to

Baseball lifer emphasizes stability in his first game as new manager

  • Buck Showalter watches from the dugout during his Orioles managerial debut at Camden Yards. The Orioles beat the Angels, 6-3.
Buck Showalter watches from the dugout during his Orioles managerial… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
August 03, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

The new guy arrived at the ballpark eight hours before game time. He would have been there sooner but for some navigational confusion.

"I tried to get there earlier than I did," said Buck Showalter, who made his debut as Orioles manager Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels. "I thought you could take a right there [near Camden Yards], but I can't, and I ended up halfway to New York."

Showalter, 54, had managed 1,716 big league games before emerging from the dugout to present his first Baltimore lineup card and receiving a healthy round of applause from an announced crowd of 16,723, who saw a 6-3 Orioles win. But he was hardly immune to the early sense of disorientation affecting anybody starting a new job in a new city.

"Nervous? No. Anxiety? It depends on how you define it," the former New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers skipper said when asked to describe his demeanor on his first game day with the last-place Orioles.

Showalter emphasized he was seeking stability. For the manager, that meant moving into his roomy office with the dark wood desk, couches and flat-screen TV and better familiarizing himself with the access roads surrounding Camden Yards. For the players, it meant uncluttering their minds from the distractions of having three managers in a season that still had 56 games remaining after Tuesday night.

Showalter met with the players as a group Tuesday afternoon. He also had private sessions with each coach in a day he described as "hectic."

He said he told everyone to put all the "flux" behind them and try to clear their heads.

"He said we're going to play harder and smarter," said outfielder Adam Jones, who described the previous managerial changes as "annoying."

"Now we've got a guy we know who's going to be here," Jones said of Showalter, whose contract runs through 2013. "Not an interim. He's etched in stone."

Baseball veterans said Showalter's task -- instilling confidence in a last-place club -- would be challenging enough if he were entering the season at the start. But assuming command now is even more daunting.

"If you come into spring training, you get to know the guys for six weeks and you're playing games that don't count," said Orioles third base coach Gary Allenson, who called Showalter "very organized and very prepared" and expressed confidence that the skipper could adapt.

Showalter's task will be to "get the players to play for him" while laying a foundation for next season, Houston Astros scout Hank Allen said.

The remainder of the season "gives him time to assess what the situation is and confer with the general manager. You all try to get on the same page and come up with a plan of action," said Allen, a former major league player.

Fans applauded when Showalter's image appeared on the video board before the game. The manager said earnestly, "Now let's quit talking about it and get it started." They applauded again when he came out to home plate with the lineup card.

After 12 losing seasons, this is what passes for hope -- a sense that a confident, seasoned baseball man might be the answer.

"I think the hiring of Buck Showalter is a large reason for optimism," Orioles fan Alec Cunningham of Gaithersburg said. "He turned the Yankees organization around in the early '90s, and took them to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years."

After being introduced to the media Monday, Showalter had to wait a day to manage a game. He seemed impatient to get started -- to hear his first national anthem as Baltimore's field leader.

He said former Yankee Don Mattingly told him years ago that he lived to hear "that song" because it made game time official. Which meant that a little after 7 p.m. Tuesday night, Showalter officially became an Oriole.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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