It doesn’t seem like Calvin Maduro has been retired only five years. The way the former Orioles right-hander has been keeping busy, he’s hardly had time to reflect on the fact that he hasn’t thrown a pitch in anger since 2006, when he went 1-5 and worked mostly in relief for the O’s Double-A affiliate in Bowie.
“That sounded old,” Maduro chuckled when asked if he felt like he belonged signing postcards and posing for photos as part of the Orioles Alumni autograph series after a recent Thursday afternoon game at Camden Yards. “I’m 37 now, but it’s still good in a way. You’re still part of the Orioles, so it’s nice to hear that.”
Maduro and other former Birds can be found at the MASN tent on Mondays and Thursdays, when they sign autographs and chat with fans for an hour beginning 90 minutes before game time. Participants are not announced in advance, but include players from each decade of the team’s existence in Baltimore on a rotating basis.
A recent addition to the alumni rotation, Maduro makes time for such appearances between multiple roles for the Orioles, for whom he played from 2000-2002 after re-signing with his original organization as a free agent. The native of Santa Cruz, Aruba, came up through the O’s farm system after signing as an amateur free agent in 1991 and was sent to the Philadelphia Phillies in September 1996 to complete a stretch-run trade that saw the Orioles acquire third baseman Todd Ziele and outfielder Pete Incaviglia from Philly.
In 2005, Maduro was named as pitching coach for short-season Single-A Aberdeen. He spent three seasons with the IronBirds, working with young O’s hurlers, and then two more campaigns in the same role for the Gulf Coast League Orioles. Taking advantage of Maduro’s knowledge of the Caribbean baseball hotbeds, he was hired as an international scout for the club in 2010, part of the Orioles’ efforts to beef up their around-the-world efforts to mine the best diamond talent. He’s part of David Stockstill’s staff, and also is responsible for scouting Europe.
Despite his new scouting role, Maduro continues to be a presence around the organization’s minor league affiliates, especially those close to his home in Millersville, Md., He spent time in uniform at the beginning of the season at Camden Yards, too, as manager Buck Showalter took advantage of his longstanding connection with some of the O’s up-and-coming pitchers.
“I do international scouting and I go help wherever they need me with pitching,” explained Maduro, who was 7-11 with a 5.39 ERA in 49 games, including 24 starts, as an Oriole. “I love it. It gives me time to be in uniform and at the same time, I can be scouting and looking for the players (of the future). I had a chance to be with Buck (Showalter) the first month at the big league level and all around, it’s all good. This year has been the best one so far.”
Baltimore, Frederick, Sarasota, the Dominican Republic - Maduro always seems to be on the move, which is part of his still relatively new job description.
“I get to sign the player at 15 to 16 years old and see how he progresses in the system and becomes a major league player later,” Maduro said. “That’s the best part.”
Does his track record as a former major leaguer give him more credibility with the teenagers he’s focusing on? “If you know baseball, you know baseball,” he said. “You don’t have play in the big leagues to know baseball.”
Naturally, Maduro has a special interest in his homeland, a small island that has long been a focal point of the Orioles’ Latin American efforts, dating to the days that longtime O’s scout Carlos Bernhardt was one of the few people paying attention to the nation’s burgeoning baseball stars. Guys like Maduro, Eugene Kingsale and Sidney Ponson are among the organization’s finds there.
“I get calls from international directors from the other teams,” Maduro said. “They call me for references on guys I know who can help them out in the future. That’s a compliment to the people over there. That means that Aruba baseball is getting big. Curacao, too.”
Coming up through the minor leagues, the then-traded Maduro found himself in a race with Kingsale to see who would be the first major leaguer to hail from Aruba. Kingsale was first, entering a Sept. 3, 1996 game in Anaheim, Calif., as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning. Five days later, Maduro made his major league debut, working a scoreless sixth inning at Veterans Stadium. An inning-ending line-drive double play bailed Maduro out after he hit the first batter he faced, Scott Servais, and yielded a one-out single by Rey Sanchez.
Though the Aruban media was closely tracking who would be the first islander to reach the majors, Maduro claims there was never any real competition between the players.
“It wasn’t a race,” he said. “I was playing higher ball (at Triple-A before the trade). He was in Aruba (after finishing the season at Single-A Frederick) and (the Orioles) called him up. We always laugh about it when we talk. We got to play in the big leagues anyway, so that’s what was important.”
In 2004, Maduro, Kingsale and Ponson were honored by the Dutch government in Aruba with the Order of Orange-Nassau, which made them knights. Maduro also pitched for the Netherlands in the 2004 Athens Olympics, while Kingsale drove in the tying run and scored the winning run in the Netherlands’ 2-1 upset victory over the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.
But Maduro’s best Baltimore baseball memory was far from his homeland. It was in Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, where he started the April 15, 2000 game in which Cal Ripken Jr. notched his 3,000th career hit, a seventh-inning single off Hector Carrasco.
“Starting the game where Cal Ripken got his 3,000th hit, that’s my No. 1 memory,” Maduro said proudly.