BOWIE, Md. - For Ryan Mountcastle, his first game in the Eastern League could have had a storybook ending. He batted for the Double-A Bowie Baysox in a 6-6 tie in the last of the ninth with runners on first and second and no outs.
Could he produce a walk-off win in his first game with Bowie after being promoted earlier today from Single-A Frederick?
He could not, but it still was a significant day in the life of the 20-year-old No. 3 rated Orioles prospect, according to Baseball America. A career that began in 2015 in short-season ball and advanced to Single-A Delmarva last year and to Frederick to start this year was taking another key step foward.
In that ninth inning, Mountcastle failed to get a bunt down on the first pitch and later fouled out to complete a 1-for-5 night. But when Adrian Marin drew a bases-loaded walk, Bowie had a 7-6 walk-off win.
“My family back home was probably thinking that and I was thinking that a little,” Mountcastle said about getting a hit to end the game. “But was just trying to do whatever I can to win a game. Maybe get a runner over.
“That was exciting. Great atmosphere with the guys. I knew most of them already. But getting a walk-off win first game here is awesome.”
In 88 games with Frederick, Mountcastle hit .314/.343/.542 with 35 doubles, a triple, 15 homers, 47 RBIs and with an OPS of .885 in 88 games. He began today leading all of minor league baseball in doubles and ranks second in extra-base hits.
He said the key to his strong season has been simple.
“Just trying to get a pitch to hit. A pitch I can handle and drive,” Mountcastle said outside the Baysox clubhouse. “That is all I’ve been trying to do all year. Anytime you get moved up is amazing and a great experience. Just to see the higher levels. But still have to play my game and try to produce.”
A shortstop throughout his pro career save for three games at third base in the Gulf Coast League in 2015, Mountcastle changed positions today. He batted fifth and played third base. He cleanly handled the one ball hit his way.
“They just said you are playing third up there,” he said of his move to the hot corner. “Just work hard and play your game. Whatever it takes, I’m ready to do. It is not too much of a transition. Whatever the organization wants me to do, I’m going to do it. Perfectly fine with it.”
Orioles minor league infield instructor Dave Anderson has been with Mountcastle often this year to work with him on his throwing and defense. He is here for this series to help the kid settle in defensively at third base.
But amid all the focus on what Mountcastle can and maybe cannot do on defense, his bat has been pretty special this year. He singled on the first pitch he saw tonight and drilled a one-hopper to second base his second time up.
He’ll be one of the youngest players in the Eastern League, but Anderson expects to see Mountcastle keep hitting.
“He is a guy that when he hits, you go to the top step (of the dugout) to watch him hit,” Anderson said. “We’ve all been in the game a long time and there are not many players you do that for. You go, ‘Hold on, I want to see this guy hit.’ “