No, it isn’t a holiday tradition at my house, or a nasty prank that Santa pulls on the kids.
While talking about new infielder Garrett Atkins this week, Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley summoned Felix Pie’s name as he contemplated the work that awaited him in spring training.
Crowley pointed out that Atkins is in a separate category because Pie only had a minor league track record when he showed up at Fort Lauderdale Stadium earlier this year. Atkins has put up impressive numbers in the majors. But Crowley still sees some similarities.
In the spirit of giving, I’m passing along Crowley’s comments to you this morning. And you won’t have to crumple up the wrapping paper later.
“What I saw from Felix in spring training I had a feeling was not going to work in the big leagues,” Crowley said. “I started doing things with him in the tunnel and, quite honestly, he couldn’t do them, couldn’t do the drills. I said, ‘OK, we’ll keep working, keep working.’ We kept trying. And I don’t think that, down deep, Felix thought he had to make these changes. But he worked with me and kept doing them, and the rest is history.”
Pie batted .157 in April and .250 in May, as he began spending more nights on the bench, but his average shot up to .467 in June. He hit .234 in the first half and .290 in the second. And fans who were trying to run him out of town are now trying to figure out how to make room for him in the outfield.
“After 100 or so at-bats, it looked like he didn’t belong in the big leagues,” Crowley said. “Then he came back in and I noticed a little more vigor in his work ethic with me.”
Pie was out of minor league options, and the Orioles were convinced that a team would claim him off waivers if they tried to send him down. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail contemplated trading him if the right deal could be struck, and Crowley voiced his opposition.
“Andy said he could have traded him and said that he could probably use the roster spot,” Crowley recalled. “I said, ‘Don’t. If he gets plugged in again, you’ll see a monster.’ He said, ‘Crow, he’s hitting .180.’ I said, ‘He’ll hit.’
“If not for two injuries, you would have really seen it. He can be a monster.”
Pie learned to trust Crowley. It shouldn’t take nearly as long with Atkins.
“You ask the kid. I love him. And if you ask him, I’m pretty sure he’d say the same about me,” Crowley said. “That’s what I’ve got to do with Garrett. I’ve got to get his confidence.
“He’ll ask teammates what they think about this Crowley guy.”
A little housekeeping:
The Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards unveiled a new gallery this week entitled “Treasures From Our Attic” that runs through 2010 and contains never-before-displayed artifacts from some of the top sporting moments and athletes in Maryland history.
Among the unique items on display to the public for the first time will include:
* Dorothy Hamill’s skates and dress from her 1976 Olympic gold medal triumph
* Jim McKay’s Emmy Award for his historic coverage of the 1972 Olympic tragedy in Munich
* U.S. and Cuban flags from the historic game in 1999 at Camden Yards between the Orioles and the Cuban National Team.
* Len Bias’ University of Maryland men’s basketball warm-up jacket from 1985 (the year he earned his first ACC Player of the Year award.)
* Silver tea set Johnny Unitas received for winning the 1959 NFL Championship with the Baltimore Colts
* Carmelo Anthony’s NCAA Basketball National Championship ring (with Syracuse in 2003.)
* Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long’s 2006 Sullivan Award
Throughout the run of the exhibit, the museum will present a series of educational programs with guest speakers that will include some of the featured athletes and/or their family members.