For some of the youngest Orioles, winning an American League East championship last night was something they had talked about when they were together on the farm. Then those players rose through the ranks in the minors and now are part of a 100-win team in Baltimore.
“That is what you dream of when you get drafted,” O’s 22-year-old rookie Gunnar Henderson said this afternoon. “You have good friends you go through the minors with, to come up relatively the same time and be on a winning team your first full year, you dream of it.”
I asked Henderson if there was a time in the minors when he looked around and thought the group of players he was with then could produce something special.
“Just felt like from all the pieces that were added over the years and the drafts that we’ve had, it’s been cool to see everyone buy in together," he said. "Everyone just wants to win. The work ethic that we have shows we want to play winning baseball. Even at the minor league level it seems all the teams are winning and doing well.
“It’s also about having good people. Never have run into anyone with a cocky attitude or that is hard to be around. It’s all just good people, and that makes for a good clubhouse. That allows everyone to go out there and play their best game. You can really enjoy playing the game and spending time with each other. That allows for great relationships and for us to play our best game.”
Lefty DL Hall, 25, who got five big outs last night, said winning with the Orioles was something the prospects talked about while coming up.
“Yeah, ever since the 2020 alt site,” said Hall. “Me, Grayson (Rodriguez), Gunnar and Adley (Rutschman), and all of us have been dreaming of these days. We have talked about it ever since then. When the four of us were first together, we talked about these moments. So to be in them is unreal.”
And so is winning alongside close friends.
“That makes it super special for us," Hall said. "We’ve put in a lot of hours together, growing to get better to help this team. So, to be all together and do it together, it was awesome. An unbelievable feeling. Just an unreal opportunity we get to be in this situation with a great group of guys. We are all super excited.
“It’s been a long year for me and a trying year for me, personally. Being able to be here is a blessing and helping this team win is awesome."
Heston Kjerstad, 24, had a big hit in last night's 2-0 clinching win over Boston with an RBI double in the eighth inning to score the Orioles' second run.
“To see everybody winning and all the guys we have in this farm system on this team from the minors is just great," Kjerstad said. "Great to be a part of it. I know a lot of the guys down there and we have a great time together. Playing baseball is fun, but winning is a lot more fun."
Kjerstad is 6-for-23 with a double, two homers and three RBIs in 25 big league plate appearances. He's batting .261/.292/.565/.857 and starting in right field tonight, batting fifth.
Kjerstad, living up to the scouting reports, is hitting balls hard with an average exit velocity of 92.7 mph. Yes, he has not had a lot of chances yet, small sample. But for his limited at-bats thus far he ranks in the top 10 percent of the major leagues in exit velocity.
He said when it comes to showing him the ropes, this clubhouse has been quite helpful for him.
“I could just go around the locker room and name a lot of the guys. (James) McCann, Adley, you know anybody and everybody has had their moment to help me along or I ask a few questions here and there. It is a great locker room to be a young guy. They are all helping me out and just want to help contribute to helping the team win," he said.