Before Trey Mancini and Christian Walker were Orioles first base prospects, there was another young lefty-hitting slugger working his way toward Baltimore. Drafted in round six in 2007, his path to the bigs included a 2010 season that ended with his winning the Brooks Robinson Award as the O’s minor league Player of the Year.
Joe Mahoney did make it to the major leagues - with both the Orioles and Marlins - but his big league career consisted of just 33 at-bats. His last season was 2013 and now, a few years later, Mahoney said it was tough to watch games after his career ended. In fact, for a while, he did not.
“I stayed away from the game for a year,” Mahoney said. “I didn’t go to any games or watch. Then I went to a game last year to see the (New York Penn-League’s) Tri-City ValleyCats (near his home in Albany, N.Y.). It is just a different experience when you are not playing. I kind of eased myself back into it.”
Mahoney’s minor league career with Baltimore took him through every stop between short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Triple-A Norfolk. He went 0-for-4 for the playoff-bound 2012 Orioles. He had two brief stints with the club from July 5-9 and Aug. 16-18.
In 2010, on his way to the Brooks Robinson Award, he hit .307 with 30 doubles, 18 homers, 78 RBIs with an .864 OPS between Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.
But in November 2012, Mahoney was designated for assignment when the Orioles traded for Danny Valencia. He was claimed by Miami and hit .276 in 29 at-bats for the Marlins in 2013 in what turned out to be his final pro season.
“I was very fortunate with the Orioles to come through the system and grow up and get opportunities,” he said. “They taught me so much and gave me a lot of confidence. I was on their roster (in 2012) and was in the big leagues in 2013 and actually did pretty well for the Marlins when I was healthy. But injuries was kind of always my downfall.
“If I could not be fully invested, I didn’t want to keep going. I was tired of being hurt and we had just had a baby. I had been away since I was 17. My whole career with the Orioles I got ahead when I was 100 percent. But it was a realization I had to come to and I was at peace with it,” he said of the end of his career.
Looking back, Mahoney has nothing but positive things to say about his experience on the O’s farm.
“I came in during ‘07 and there was a rebuilding process, and right when I left, we made the playoffs,” he said. “I learned so much from the Orioles. I never really had a bad coach. I always looked up to Denny Walling as my hitting coach. I respect all those guys in the big leagues and I still talk to some of them.
“Look at a guy like Caleb Joseph, who I still talk to. He is such a good example of the Orioles believing in him. Look at what he has turned into. They gave me an opportunity and put me on the roster. They always believed in me.”
In Albany now, Mahoney has plenty to keep him busy with a wife and two children, ages 2 1/2 years and 10 months. He has gotten back into baseball in a non-playing capacity. He is director of operations for a website/app at up17app.com.
The site accepts videos of kids playing and then provides them with instruction from a former big league player. Dale Murphy is part-owner and the roll of instructors includes former Orioles pitcher Anthony Telford, former O’s minor league coach Denny Hocking and former O’s minor leaguer Nick Green.
“It is just giving kids the ability to get the ultimate advice and instruction from guys that have played at the highest level,” Mahoney said. “The nice thing about our app is you can do it anywhere. You don’t have to travel 50 miles to get a retired major league player to be your hitting coach or pitching coach. We provide kind of a mobile coach.
“We don’t want to cut out their coaches and dads. We are just a second set of eyes to help the kids with the drills and our video analysis.”
The big spenders: If you add pitcher Yovani Gallardo’s guaranteed $35 million to the Orioles’ previous spending this winter, they have committed a total of $249.8 million this winter on free agents. That ranks fourth in free agent spending this offseason:
$276.25 million - Cubs
$272.25 million - Tigers
$251 million - Giants
$249.8 million - Orioles
$230 million - Red Sox
$218.75 million - Diamondbacks
Along with those six teams that spent $200 million or more this winter on future contracts, there are four teams that have not spent a single dollar on a free agent. They are the Yankees, Phillies, Brewers and Reds.
The website spotrac.com lists the Orioles current payroll at $139,327,115 and that is counting Gallardo. That ranks 10th in the majo leagues by their calculations.
Early camp to begin: A group of 37 Orioles minor league players will report to Sarasota, Fla., and the Twin Lakes complex today for an early camp. Some of these players could find their way into early Orioles exhibition games starting March 1. On March 4, the bulk of the minor league pitchers and catchers are due to report with position players coming in four days later. Click here for the early camp roster.
Tom and Steve TV: I’ll be talking about the Orioles’ 2016 season tonight with host Tom Davis on “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on MASN. The show airs at 10:30 p.m. It will re-air on Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m. and on Feb. 28 at noon.