While waiting for the commissioner to try to sell us on a season that will last about as long as spring training ...
As I reviewed the list of past Orioles selections in the First-Year Player Draft, a yearly endeavor that illuminates the misses more than the hits, I stumbled upon a reliever taken with the 19th overall pick in 1993 out of Mississippi State.
The same school, by the way, that produced shortstop Jordan Westburg, selected by the Orioles on Wednesday with the 30th pick.
Jay Powell didn’t last long in the Orioles organization, but he appeared in 512 games over 11 seasons with five teams. His major league debut came with the Marlins in 1995 after a December trade involving second baseman Bret Barberie.
Does Powell qualify as an Orioles bust if he didn’t pitch for them because of the trade?
Do you remember Powell?
I’m reminded of Barberie whenever I watch highlights from the 2,131 game. He’s in the Orioles dugout as Cal Ripken Jr. breaks Lou Gehrig’s record.
One year later, Barberie was finishing up his major league career with the Cubs. I was more interested in his wife, Jillian Barberie, but I digress ...
While I remember Powell and the day that the Orioles drafted him, his role in the 1997 World Series somehow escaped me.
I assisted in The Baltimore Sun’s coverage, something that never would happen today. The paper wouldn’t send one reporter to cover a World Series that didn’t involve the Orioles, let alone two of us.
It snowed in Cleveland and was sunny and warm in Miami, my most vivid recollection of the experience. And a missed connecting flight that was filled with angry umpires.
There also was the dive motel - as opposed to one of those fancy ones - that The Sun booked for me outside of Cleveland. The top of the heating unit was covered with dead flies, or so I thought. I returned to my warm room later that night, heard a buzzing sound, pulled back the curtains and saw a window covered in flies that no longer were dormant.
Attending a World Series wasn’t supposed to be a science experiment.
Because it was back in the pre-Lyft and pre-Uber days, if you can imagine such a thing, I had to call a cab to get to Jacobs Field. The paper didn’t rent a car for me.
Apparently, nothing was too good for this guy.
Two fans staying in the next room offered to drive me there, though I had to arrive long before the gates opened. They claimed to be friends of reliever Jeff Juden. I agreed and then sat in the backseat wondering if they were going to rob me, but they were legit. Or maybe they just lost their nerve.
Anyway, the World Series went the full seven games, the Indians’ José Mesa blew the save in the ninth inning and Edgar Rentería hit a walk-off single in the 11th. The Marlins’ PR staff kept the media waiting outside the clubhouse while allowing family and friends inside, an absolute killer on deadline. A total clown show.
I was assigned to do a sidebar story on the hero, which happened to be Rentería. What I should have done was head over to Powell’s locker.
I’m sure that the significance hit me at the time, but over the years I forgot that Powell was the winning pitcher. He worked a scoreless top of the 11th after issuing a leadoff walk to Matt Williams.
Sandy Alomar bunted back to Powell, who got the force at second base, and future Oriole Jim Thome grounded into a double play.
Powell made four appearances in the Series and allowed three runs and five hits with four walks in 3 2/3 innings. Williams hit a two-run homer off him in Game 4.
The Marlins traded Powell to the Astros on July 4, 1998 for catcher Ramón Castro. He’d also pitch for the Rockies, Rangers and Braves before fracturing the humerus bone in his right arm in July 2005.
Powell underwent Tommy John surgery the previous summer.
A nice career for the former first-round draft pick. And he’ll always have Game 7.