A busy day for the Orioles has given way to a busy night - one including an unscheduled landing and a confirmed spot in the playoffs.
Manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette spoke to reporters a few minutes ago in a conference call. Showalter was first asked about the team charter making an emergency landing in Jacksonville.
“We were in good hands,” Showalter said. “It was just a precautionary thing, just to be on the safe side. We had a little something heat up on the plane, and the professionals didn’t like what was going on. They checked it out and, to be on the safe side, we stopped in Jacksonville and they fixed whatever it was and took off. It gave everyone a chance to get off the plane and watch the Eagles game.”
Showalter called tonight’s clinching “a step.”
“It’s nice to know we’ll be involved in it and it’s something to be very proud of,” he said. “Like I said today, there are steps and one of them is make sure you get a chair at the dance. And then you’d like to figure out some ways to play games in our ballpark in front of our fans. It’s in our court. We put ourselves in position to compete for a division title, and that’s where we set our sights for a while.
“Being able to get into the playoffs is a byproduct of playing good ball and competing in the division. We’ll see where the next three games take us, but I’m real proud of everybody. And there was a good reaction like you expected on the plane.”
Showalter said applause broke out and there were congratulatory hugs and handshakes.
“In the electronic world we live in, a couple phones had a little different delay to them,” he said. “Everybody responded as you could imagine. It was very professional. It’s more of a look into somebody’s eyes, a firm handshake. It’s great and we’re proud, but we’ve got an opportunity to do things that will put us in a better position.”
The Orioles thought they could clinch at home, but boarded their flight knowing the Angels won Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Rangers. Then came the emergency landing and news that Texas won Game 2.
“It really hasn’t been the emotional roller coaster for us that people may perceive,” Showalter said.
“I think everybody knows where the finish line is and we’re not there. It’s very mature. You don’t do what these guys have done without emotions being involved, but they’ve always been funneled in the right direction. We’ve got three really tough challenges ahead of us in Tampa, and when that smoke clears, we’ll see what’s left for us. We know we’ll be playing more than 162 games.”
It’s too soon for Showalter to step back and reflect on what this team has accomplished.
“There’s too much work to be done, too much to prepare for,” he said. “We know a lot of people depend on us to continue down this road. You want the chance to roll the dice in October. These guys have played very confidently and with no fear.”
A low-key celebration might better suit this team, though Showalter said, “If you got inside somebody’s heart, you may not define it that way.”
“This is their accomplishment, our team’s accomplishment, and I’m proud of them,” he added. “Don’t underestimate them for the emotions involved on this team. Anything you see from them is going to be sincere.”
Duqutte said he was “happy for the players and for the fans.”
“We were in the hunt in September when kids were back in school and now we’re playing some meaningful games in October,” he said. “Hats off to Buck and the players. They know we have more more work to do and will do everything they can to not only have playoff game in Baltimore for our fans, but everything they can to realize the goals and dreams of the organization.
“I think people believe in the team, our fans believe in the team and they think a lot of the investments that the owner has made in the team is bearing fruit, and I’m just happy we made the first step.”
Here’s the statement from the Orioles concerning the incident on their flight:
“Due to a minor incident in the galley, the Orioles’ charter made an unscheduled landing in Jacksonville, Fla., en route to St. Petersburg tonight. After the plane was inspected, all crew and passengers reboarded and flew to St. Petersburg without further incident. This unscheduled landing was done with an abundance of caution and at no time was anyone on the flight in danger.”