ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles continue to downplay last night’s unscheduled landing in Jacksonville, saying some of the media reports were exaggerated and it was really no big deal.
“We’re fine,” said center fielder Adam Jones, clearly annoyed that the incident remained a hot topic today.
Reminded how the Orioles’ celebration was delayed because of their unexpected stop, Jones replied, “Doesn’t matter. We’re still fine. We’re here alive and well.”
Manager Buck Showalter said he wasn’t concerned.
“You know what you do in situations like that? You kind of feed off the experts’ faces - the flight attendents, the pilot’s voice,” Showalter said. “Like people were talking about the so-called celebration on the plane. It was more, you look in a coach’s eyes and you shake their hand and you hang there a little longer. That’s what you really get.
“I never understood parents who fly separately, because if God wants both of you, he’s going to take both planes down, and that’s pretty selfish, isn’t it? I’m just kidding, but I’m actually serious. I mean, if it’s time, it’s time.
“We got on the ground and there were some people looking for where the bus was. I was asking, ‘How long a bus ride to Tampa?’”
The unscheduled landing provided Showalter with “little snapshots.”
“We were in the airport in Jacksonville, and I look way over in the corner, and they had been sitting there for about a half-hour - (Jim) Thome and (Dylan) Bundy by themselves talking in the corner of the airport,” Showalter said. “I had to take a picture. That was pretty cool. I’d love to know what they were talking about. Probably trucks or something.
“I don’t think anybody here is having a better time than Thome. He’s having a blast. It’s been fun watching him. It’s like he’s playing his first game in Little League. You can see why he’s had such long-term success. He’s been fun to be around.”
The Orioles will have a lot more fun if they clinch the American League East, which remains their primary goal. Last night’s playoff clinching was only a step.
“We want the division, so that’s when we’re going to celebrate, if we get that,” Jones said. “We want the division. It’s cool to be in this position knowing that, no matter what, we maybe get to play on Thursday. We don’t want that. We’re tied for the division lead. It’s reachable. We have to win.
“We clinched a spot, but our division is right there. We have an opportunity to win the East and that’s bigger. Once you get in, it doesn’t matter how you get in. Nobody cares how you get in, but to win the division and bring it back to Baltimore would be a little bit more satisfying.”
The Orioles wanted to celebrate at Camden Yards, and they lingered on the field after yesterday’s victory over the Red Sox until the Angels rallied in the ninth inning in Game 1 of their doubleheader. The Rangers won Game 2, which put the Orioles in the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
“It would have been cool to do it with our home fans there, but it didn’t happen,” Jones said. “I know a lot of fans made the trip down here, a lot of Baltimore media made the trip down here that I never see on the road besides New York. If we’re able to celebrate one of these days here, we’ll be able to do it with our fans that have made the trip.”