Terrin Vavra sat at his locker Wednesday morning with his back turned to the room, his head lowered as he swapped text messages with wife Carlie. He seemed calm, which meant his first baby wasn’t ready to be born. Just a quick exchange, between Texas and Minnesota, before he headed outside for batting practice.
Vavra would appear in his sixth major league game later in the day, coming off the bench and delivering a two-out, tie-breaking double in the eighth inning. One of the unlikely heroes on an unlikely playoff contender.
The Orioles completed their sweep of the Rangers with a 6-3 win, and Vavra walked back to the clubhouse to eat, shower and board a flight to Baltimore.
Life is coming at him fast, but he’s done a nice job of slowing it to a manageable pace.
Daughter Tatum is due to arrive at the end of the month. The couple is on the clock, but Vavra is handling it as easily as the four-seam fastball from José Leclerc that he roped into left-center field.
“We have a pretty good dialogue,” he said. “She’s pretty good at keeping me kind of focused. Right now, obviously, just trying to get comfortable here. It’s been pretty easy to separate the two when I’m at the field. It’s business, and then right after I get home I talk to her and see how things are going there. It’s going pretty good so far.”
Vavra doesn’t jump out of his stirrups when he sees a text or missed call from Carlie.
“We’re not to that point yet,” he said. “She just had an appointment (Tuesday). The doctor didn’t think she’s going to go early, so it takes a little bit of weight off the shoulders. But I’m sure as the days get closer, it will be a little bit more that way.”
There will be a paternity leave coming for Vavra. In the meantime, he’s taking full advantage of his first experience in the majors. He hasn’t labored (sorry), and manager Brandon Hyde’s already put him in left field and at second base, along with the designated hitter spot.
“So far, so good,” Vavra said. “We’ve got a good group of guys here who have really made the transition pretty easy, and that’s been huge. Obviously, I want to try to get comfortable everywhere on the field and be able to relax a little bit. The stage is a little bit bigger, so there’s a little bit more pressure that comes with it. It's nothing that I can’t handle, but it’s just something that I’m looking forward to getting kind of used to and to be able to just relax and go play.”
Vavra isn’t certain how long he’ll remain with the Orioles, whether he’s one of the prospects they want to evaluate or just here to temporarily fill a utility-type role. It doesn’t get inside his head, which he believes is a product of coming from a baseball family, with his father, Joe, having served as a coach with the Dodgers, Twins and Tigers, and with two older brothers who also played.
Tanner Vavra was the Twins’ 30th-round pick in the 2013 draft, and Trey was their 33rd-round selection the following year.
“That’s one of the benefits of growing up in the game,” Terrin said. “You see an opportunity come and go pretty quick, so you’ve just got to cherish each one and try to make the most of it. Whatever that means, whether I get to stay or I have to go back down, whatever it is, just try to get better each day.”
Vavra has made three starts, collected three hits in nine at-bats, drawn five walks and posted a .571 on-base percentage.
Three of those walks came in Tuesday night’s game, a total he didn’t achieve in Triple-A.
“I’m always trying to get a good pitch to hit, and it’s been encouraging that I haven’t been too jumpy, too anxious in the box where I’m chasing,” said Vavra, who’s returned from a back injury in 2021 and hamstring strain this season. “It’s happened a few times where I felt that way. Just to be able to look back so far at the at-bats I have and realize for the most part that I’ve been pretty disciplined and whatnot, I’m pretty happy with that, pretty proud of that, and hopefully I can keep going in the future.”
Vavra arrived as a career .306/.410/.468 hitter in four minor league seasons since the Rockies drafted him in the third round in 2018 out of the University of Minnesota – another solid trade by executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who also received corner infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin and outfielder Mishael Deson at the 2020 deadline for reliever Mychal Givens, who’s moved on to the Reds, Cubs and Mets. Vavra has a knack for getting on base, no matter what level he’s playing.
An impression has been made on manager Brandon Hyde, who appreciates the approach in the box, especially as it flows out of a 25-year-old rookie.
“Very impressed,” Hyde said before the game. “Guys make their debut a lot of times, they get a little overanxious, they can get a little jumpy at the plate. They’re trying to do too much a little bit, they’re so excited to be here, and he is taking veteran-type at-bats, where he’s laying off tough pitches. He got a nice line drive single to left (Tuesday) night, but it’s the quality of his at-bats and how he’s able to not chase, which his nice to watch.
“For me, a young player gets to the big leagues, it’s easy early on, your first games, to try to impress, to try to do a little too much and more than what you’ve been doing in Triple-A. And that’s something you always try to hammer home to guys, just do what you’ve been doing. That said, when the lights come on in the big leagues, it’s different. He has slowed the game down right away.
“We chase a little too much as a club, and to have somebody up here that’s managing his at-bat really well, it’s been really impressive.”
It’s nothing new to the people who have been around him.
“That's what Terrin does is string together good ABs,” said Kyle Bradish, who has also been a minor league teammate. “Walked three times (Tuesday) and then comes in, gets the go-ahead RBI, worked a good count, got a fastball that he could handle. But that's what he does. He's a good player.”
Note: Outfielder Austin Hays is the Orioles’ recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, which honors active players “who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”
It’s the only award in Major League Baseball voted upon by former players.
The overall winner will be announced in November on MLB Network.
Hays created a $20,000 scholarship for Maryland high school and college students. He personally funded $10,000, with an equal match from the Orioles Charitable Foundation.