SARASOTA, Fla. - The Orioles are wearing orange LUNGevity t-shirts at today’s workout to honor former public relations director Monica Pence Barlow, who passed away exactly one year ago after battling Stage 4 lung cancer for 4 1/2 years.
The shirts have “In Memory Of Monica” written in white letters.
“You don’t realize how much you really miss her until you get an interview request, you get things that Monica would have come to you for in spring training, and that can be a little hard this time of year,” said catcher Matt Wieters. “Monica was such a memorable person that things are going to remind you of her throughout your whole life and that’s just what kind of a person she was and meant to me.”
Wieters will never forget receiving the news of her passing from manager Buck Showalter.
“Buck called a bunch of us in his office and we could tell something wasn’t right and we didn’t know what it was. And really we had no idea that that was going to come out of his mouth, that Monica had passed away,” Wieters said.
“It was hard. I just remember being in shock because of how good she looked the last time I saw her in Baltimore before I went home for the offseason. We were just in pure shock last year and then you start to deal with the grieving process.”
The shirts are a nice tribute. Players already had changed into them as the clubhouse opened to the media at 8 a.m.
“I’d like to wear them every day for Monica,” Wieters said. “Monica was that kind of person. We could change our jerseys to this shirt and I’d be fine with it.”
Wieters has been participating in catching drills and will be behind the plate for Saturday’s intrasquad game.
“Buck said I’m going to catch and just throw the ball back to the pitcher,” Wieters said. “No stealing. I’m going to have a strong word for those guys if they to steal on me.
“I’m excited. I’d rather do that. I’d rather catch than sit around taking four at-bats, so it will be fun because whenever I do get behind the plate this spring I’ll have limited time. It will be good to try to get behind the plate as much as we can. We can’t go through regular spring training games and go, ‘Hey, he’s just not going to throw.’ That wouldn’t go well. But when we can control it, it’s nice.”
Showalter announced yesterday that Kevin Gausman will start the home exhibition opener on March 4 against the Tigers.
“I’m only throwing one inning,” Gausman said. “It’s cool. I think one of the only reasons is the fact we made it so far in the playoffs last year, we’re trying to give those other guys who had more of a work load, push them back a little bit. Make sure they’re ready to go when we start games.”
In other words, Gausman isn’t reading too much into the assignment.
“No, not really,” he said. “You really can’t, you know? That’s one thing I’ve learned.
“This will probably be the only time I do pitch at home. I’ll probably be on every road trip, which is fine with me. That’s what I’ve done every year. But it will be fun. Like I said, it’s only one inning. Just building up. One (game) for one inning and then I think we do two for two innings and kind of work our way up.”
Gausman knows that he won’t be facing the Tigers’ heavy hitters.
“I don’t think Detroit will be bringing any of their big guys over here in the second game, but it should be exciting. Always good to get that first one out of the way,” Gausman said.
“Even just the other day having hitters in the batters box for once, it’s pretty exciting to get some feedback. Obviously, they weren’t swinging but you throw a good pitch and they’ll tell you, ‘Hey, that was good.’ Or if you throw a bad one they’ll tell you, ‘Hey, that sucked. I would have crushed that.’ Something like that. So yeah, it’s just good to have somebody in the batters box and it just gives you that confirmation that the season is coming.”