The Orioles hosted 80 first- through fifth-grade students from Morrell Park Elementary School in Baltimore today as part of the 34th Annual OriolesREACH Holiday Party for Kids at Dave & Busters at Arundel Mills Mall.
Manager Buck Showalter, shortstop J.J. Hardy, outfielders Nick Markakis and LJ Hoes, and pitcher Steve Johnson served lunch to the kids, played games and signed autographs. They were joined by former Orioles Al Bumbry, Chris Hoiles, Dave Johnson and Scott McGregor.
The Right Side Foundation, the personal charity of Markakis and his wife, Christina, made a financial contribution for the party and provided an Under Armour drawstring backpack and new baseball and glove for each child.
Markakis has been working out for the last few weeks after giving his surgically repaired left thumb additional time to heal. He never starts baseball activities until he reports to spring training.
"I'm as good as I'm going to get right now," he said. "I've already started all my stuff and I'm ready to roll. And actually, anxious to get down there. I don't have any setbacks."
Markakis has no idea where he'll bat in Showalter's lineup, and he has no interest in finding out ahead of time.
"It is what it is," he said. "Wherever he wants to put me in the lineup, that's where I'm going to be. I'm not going to complain or moan about being somewhere in the lineup. Buck's going to put me where he thinks I'm going to help this team the best and that's what I'm going to look forward to and that's the mindset I'm going to have."
Markakis didn't play after Sept. 8 because of the broken thumb, the result of a CC Sabathia fastball. He would have been available for the World Series if the Orioles had gotten past the Yankees in the American League Division Series.
Asked whether he's eager to start playing again after the long layoff, Markakis replied, "I was in the beginning. I didn't want it to end. That's reality. Every good thing comes to an end. It was just really bad timing and you know, I was anxious to get back. But I'm enjoying my offseason right now. It will be here before we know it."
Most of the team will return in 2013, which brings no complaints from Markakis.
"Yeah, for the most part all the guys know each other," he said. "It's always that awkward feeling going into spring training not knowing everybody and what you're in for and what you're going to get out of people, so it's good that you have people back that you're familiar with and like working with. It's a lot easier on the guys. But then again, I'm sure there's a ton of people that we've never even seen before, so we'll see how it goes."
Markakis will have the rare pleasure of going into spring training with expectations for the team heightened following the first winning season and playoff berth in 15 years.
"That's what comes with success," he said. "With what we did last year, people are going to be looking for us to be in the same position as last year and go further. And that's our expectation. That's our goal. We want to get there. The guys have been there. Hopefully I'll be able to get there with them and you know, have fun doing it.
"You can definitely tell (the excitement) from the fans' standpoint. It's good to see. This will by my eighth season coming up, and the six years prior to this past season, it's been tough. We've had our ups and downs, but we just couldn't pull things together. This past season, when things go right, and everybody's on the same page, good things happen. It's just good to bring it back to the city, it's good to see it in the fans. And not only the fans, but the whole country knows what the Baltimore Orioles are about now. And we've just got to continue with that mindset, that attitude, and play hard, and we'll see at the end of the year where we are."