With Showalter, Oriole Way could be back on the map

February 25, 2011|Peter Schmuck

SARASOTA, Fla. — Let's be honest. Everybody who is hired to be the manager of the Orioles talks at some point about respecting the storied legacy of the organization and restoring the "Oriole Way."

The difference this time is that Buck Showalter might just succeed.

Showalter has put a new emphasis on team-building and organizational pride that started with last week's field trip to a local theater for the homemade motivational video that had new first baseman Derrek Lee "ready to fight [Mike]Tyson."

It continued with Thursday morning's visit from Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who stood under his "20" plaque in the spring clubhouse and reminded the players — young and old — of the importance of squeezing every ounce out of the opportunity that is presented to them each spring.

It goes on every day with Showalter's famous attention to detail at every level of the baseball operation.

Showalter got credit for quickly installing a new professional ethic when he took over the team last August, but he says that it's really an old one that dates back to the days when Earl Weaver was considered one of baseball's cutting-edge managers.

"I came with that,'' Showalter said Friday. "I was a big fan of the way they [the old Orioles] played the game. I've told you about the first half-field [the extra practice infield some teams use in spring training] with Earl and I loved the things they held as important to win. And they were consistent with it.

"With Frank, you could see the pride he had in the O's. He could have gone to a lot of camps and done that. I was talking to him about that and said 'Why here?' He said, 'I've worn a lot of uniforms, but I'm an Oriole.' Things don't happen by accident. Things happen for a reason, and he was one of the reasons that was established."

The spring coaching staff also is peppered with familiar players from the successful Orioles teams of the 1990s. Brady Anderson spent the offseason working as a personal trainer/coach with Josh Bell, Nolan Reimold and Mark Reynolds, and is in uniform this spring along with B.J. Surhoff and Mike Bordick (who is a full-time organizational instructor).

Hall of Famer Jim Palmer stops by camp occasionally and is a regular presence during the season. Showalter said he also is hoping to bring Cal Ripken down to talk to the team this spring, but Ripken may have trouble fitting that into his schedule.

"All those guys, this is their home,'' Showalter said. "They've got a lot to bring. Part of having them here, too, is understanding how everything goes on and making sure you understand the framework of how it's got to be delivered to the players where you're not confusing them at all. That, more than anything else, was the Oriole Way.

"It was a generation to generation thing. Talking to different guys, it was the sharing of information with each other all the way through the system. It was like an inheritance that you passed down."

If you're wondering whether this generation of players really grasps the organizational history — and major league history — embodied in Robinson, new first baseman Derrek Lee's reaction should put your mind at ease.

"You're talking about one of the best hitters of all time,'' Lee said. "You could have heard a pin drop in this room."

Anderson, who played for Robinson in the early 1990s, is happy to see the Orioles doing more to accentuate the glory days of the organization.

"There has been quite a legacy left behind,'' said Anderson. "You look at the Hall of Famers the Orioles have had. They are legitimate Hall of Famers. Frank, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver … they are the elite of the elite.

"It's great when a guy like Frank comes in and speaks. He is one of the elites in the history of the game. He was known as a gamer. He was the first black manager. He was a barrier-breaker. He has done everything you can do in this game."

New shortstop J.J. Hardy played for Robinson on Team USA in 2003, so he didn't need an introduction, but he also felt the presence of one of the Orioles' most revered players had a very positive effect on the team.

"It was good to see him come in here," Hardy said, "instead of just seeing the number on the wall."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon Fridays and Saturdays and check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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