WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – After their visit earlier today to the Little League World Series site, including Lamade Stadium and interactions with numerous Little Leaguers, the Orioles have moved over to Bowman Field where they are scheduled to play the Red Sox tonight to wrap up a three-game series.
There has been heavy rain in the area this afternoon with steady rain still falling after 4 p.m. today. The clubs are hopeful they will get this one in. For the Orioles, it is a chance to show a national audience on ESPN how much their team has improved this year.
“We haven’t been on the national stage very often, if at all," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "And to be able to have our guys be seen across the country, the only game that is going, I think it’s a big deal for a lot of our players. Lot of those guys have not been in postseason or on Sunday Night Baseball before. To be able to showcase and to be able to have friends and family watch on national TV, our guys will take a lot out of that."
Hyde said center fielder Cedric Mullins, who didn’t play Saturday after fouling a ball off his shin Friday, will be in tonight’s lineup. And he’s leading off in center.
“He’s going to get some treatment here and his foot feels better,” Hyde said.
The Orioles players, to hear them tell it, had a blast today interacting with Little Leaguers from around the United States and the world. They played games with the kids, signed autographs and had players sign for them, and many of the Orioles did the hill slide on cardboard. Treacherous, it seemed, but fun.
Hyde’s son wanted to race him and Brandon edged him out. “More mass rolling down,” he quipped.
“My son wanted to go down and once I saw people going down, I wanted to try it. Never know when you’ll be back. Had seen it on TV for years and wanted to have that experience.
"It’s a lot faster than you think. After I saw some of the collisions, I experienced one of my own. But it was a lot of fun. The guys had a blast. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the reaction of our players was phenomenal.
“To see it when we rolled in, all the fans waving to us and waiting to high five guys when they walked off the bus, that’s a great experience for our guys," he said.
Hyde seems to be having as much fun here today as his players have had.
“As a Little Leaguer, you wanted to play on national TV and be in Williamsport. For us to be able to experience that, I don’t think most of us have ever been here, to experience that was something we’ll never forget. Incredible day so far," he said.
He was asked if one moment or interaction struck him the most.
“There was a kid that wasn’t from Baltimore that had memorized a lot of our guys’ stats. He knew our team inside and out and for not a local kid, someone from another part of the country, to be a fan of our team and tell me how exciting our team is and how much fun he has had watching us play, that did stick with me. He knew so much and had questions for me and just loved watching us play. That was awesome," Hyde said.
Here are some other comments from O’s players on their day in Williamsport:
Outfielder Ryan McKenna: “Just great seeing all the kids faces light up, man. Sometimes when we get caught up in our day-to-day lives we don’t understand the impact fully. Seeing how much talent there is with these Little Leaguers, too, and their focus and the team dynamic of all these kids, it brings back memories and was awesome to be around. The stadium and facilities were really nice, too. It was all really good."
Outfielder Austin Hays: “We were having a lot of fun. Got some good videos of our guys going down the hill with some kids. It was a good time. I made it about halfway down and fell off my cardboard.
“Now let’s see what we can do, hopefully put on a show for them tonight. Just let them enjoy it in the stands and have a good time. Baseball, we all played it as kids and developed a love for the game. So we go back to where it all started. We were in those kids' shoes and played the game because it was fun and it led us to here.”
Outfielder Kyle Stowers: “The thing that stuck with me is how special a time this is for those kids and how the town rallies around them. To see it in person, all the people that come here, just really cool to see.”
Hays added that this is an important time for a team that has lost three of four and five of eight, and began today 2.5 games back of the final American League wild card spot.
“Yeah, I think we just need to pick it up a bit offensively. Just get some things going earlier in the game. We are still doing what we’ve done all year late in the game and our pitching staff is continuing to do what they’ve done, keeping us in there. We just need to focus more in the beginning of the game to get things going and develop some offense for ourselves earlier," he said.