The idea came to Fredi González as Cedric Mullins rounded the bases and returned to the dugout. He just needed to execute it.
González wanted the Orioles to stay in the dugout Friday night and allow Mullins to run onto the field alone for the top of the third inning. To let the crowd cheer him again for becoming the first player in club history with 30 home runs and 30 steals in the same season.
He saw it done before in Atlanta with one of the franchise’s legendary players. Mullins isn’t close to the same stature as Chipper Jones - this wasn’t a future Hall of Famer in his final game - but González knew that Mullins deserved something else beyond the curtain call.
Apply a little more heat to a warm moment.
“The organization part was easy,” said González, the Orioles’ major league coach who managed the Braves in Jones’ final season in 2012.
“The idea came from seeing some other people do it and being part of those celebrations when I was with Chipper Jones and he was retiring. The last game he played, we did something special like that, let him run on the field by himself, and I thought it was just such a cool thing.
“What a milestone that (Mullins) broke. I mean, look at all those great names, the great players who have gone through here, and nobody’s ever done it, you know? And the tradition that the Orioles have. So I thought it was a special time and it would be nice and appreciated.”
There’s a chain of command for these things.
González first sought permission from manager Brandon Hyde before setting his plan in motion. He needed a green light before putting up the stop sign for teammates.
“He goes, ‘Yeah, that’s great,’ ” González said, “so I passed it along to (Pat) Valaika and somebody was next to him, and I go quietly, ‘Pass it along to everybody else.’ And so they did. Everything just happened.
“It was only eight guys. Even the pitcher stayed there, which was good. It was fun and I think everybody really enjoyed it. I know I did. I don’t know if Mully did or not, because he’s a really humble kid, but I really enjoyed him running out there.
“I watched him all the way out there, and I don’t know if he even realized he was out there by himself. I just wish it was 60,000 people in the stands.”
Mullins already was in the dugout when González whispered instructions to Valaika.
“I asked Brandon right away and he goes, ‘Yeah, do it,’ So I saw Pat and we got it going pretty good, pretty fast. And he’s such a great teammate. He’s so loved in the clubhouse and respected. It was a no-brainer. Everybody was like, ‘Yeah, we’re in.’ The only thing was keeping it away from Mully, not letting him know. But I think we did a good job.”
Mullins is going to be named Most Valuable Oriole on Wednesday and should appear on some ballots for the American League’s Most Valuable Player. He’s expected back in the lineup Tuesday after being used as a pinch-hitter the past two games because of a sore hamstring.
His story just keeps growing.
Mullins is the 12th player in major league history to record at least 30 home runs, 35 doubles, five triples and 30 steals in a season and the first since Mookie Betts in 2018. He’s the eighth to post the stat line while also drawing at least 50 walks, joining Betts (2018), Ryan Braun and Jacoby Ellsbury (2011), Grady Sizemore (2008), Carlos Beltrán (2004), Ellis Burks (1996) and Barry Bonds (1992).
The 309 total bases were the fourth-most in the majors yesterday, trailing only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (349), Marcus Semien (340) and Salvador Pérez (319). He’s the 24th player in Orioles history to accumulate 300 total bases and the first since Trey Mancini in 2019.
“Coming from switch-hitting his entire career to not switch-hitting, you know the speed is there, but the home runs ... and the steadiness the whole year,” González said. “That’s what impresses me more than anything is the way he’s handled the whole season. Obviously, he’s had great months and he’s had bad weeks, but it’s the same guy every day. Day in and day out, the same guy, and that’s tough to do in this game.
“The guys that you see do the 30/30 thing are big, strong guys that are powerful. I know I had Preston Wilson in Miami when he did it (in 2000). I was a coach there. I don’t know if you know Preston Wilson. He’s a big, strong guy that could hit the ball out of the ballpark. You would never expect Mully to be a 30-home run guy, but his swing is so compact and so good, and he backspins the ball. The ball carries off his bat. But again, what a great season.
“And then on a second note, (Ryan) Mountcastle. The stuff that these two guys have done, breaking records in this organization, with a team that’s lost over 100 games, those are two special seasons.”