Young fans welcome the newest Oriole, Manny Machado, to his… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
When Mike Kempa woke up Thursday morning, he was just excited about getting a free T-shirt and seeing his favorite big league team.
But it would be no ordinary Orioles outing.
Before the 20-year-old Kempa made the nearly three-hour trek with his parents from Ocean City to Camden Yards, he learned the news of the day: The Orioles had called up Manny Machado, Baseball America’s 9th-ranked prospect, from Double-A Bowie.
The Kempas were among the announced 21,226 who showed up for the rare opportunity to watch the major league debut of a potential franchise cornerstone.
“He’s the future,” said Cindy Kempa, Mike’s 55-year-old mother, who had watched Machado play with Single-A Delmarva. “He has a good future with the Orioles. I see good things coming down the road.”
It was a common sentiment shared around Camden Yards minutes before the Orioles faced the Royals on Thursday evening. People were hopeful it was the beginning of something special, a night that would not soon be forgotten (and not just because of the night'sWei-Yin ChenT-shirt giveaway).
Of course, given the recent track record of some Orioles prospects, fans were careful to keep expectations in check.
“I think the biggest thing is that it’s really just them showing that they want to compete and they want to win,” said Mike Croteau, a 24-year-old Baltimore native. “They think Machado, even if he’s not ready to be a superstar, he’s at least ready to contribute.”