This time of the year is a personal favorite for Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop. It reminds him of a special time. He played on a team that won the Little League World Series, which is taking place now in Williamsport, Pa.
Schoop and the kids from the tiny island nation of Curacao played in the LLWS not once, but twice. They had a strong showing in 2003. They won the championship in 2004.
Schoop began that game batting third and playing shortstop, and went 2-for-3 with an RBI. He ended it on the mound. He got the last two outs to get a save as Curacao beat Thousand Oaks, Calif., 5-2.
“It was the best experience of my life,” Schoop said. “We were a small country and no one knew us. We went there and played really good ball and won it all. At 11 and 12 years old, going to the States, it was exciting to win it all. The best ever. It was some real exciting stuff.”
That Curacao team featured not one, but two future major leaguers as Jurickson Profar joined Schoop on the team and drove in two runs in the championship game. Then those kids returned home to a hero’s welcome.
“It was crazy,” Schoop said. “We put Curacao on the map. We had a parade and everyone came out to cheer for us. Everyone then wanted to know, ‘Where is Curacao?’
“It means a lot. I think it was the first time someone from the Caribbean won it. I love to watch it now. It brings back great memories, plus I like to see the kids enjoying themselves there.”
Schoop has been enjoying himself at times this year, especially now that he is healthy and playing well.
From the start of this season, it was clear that Schoop was much improved over last year. The ups and downs of his 2014 season providing a learning and growing experience, and Schoop did just that. He got better.
Schoop in 2014: .209 avg., 16 homers, 45 RBIs, .244 OBP, .354 slugging, .598 OPS
Schoop in 2015: .297 avg., 9 homers, 27 RBIs, .328 OBP, .506 slugging, .834 OPS
“I feel good about my season overall, but you can always get better and improve,” Schoop said. “I am trying to do that. I’ve been more selective this year and that has helped me. Sometimes I take what they give me and go to right field. That is how you have to play. I think I am better this year.”
Last night on MASN’s “O’s Xtra” pregame, they did a segment on Schoop, and a graphic showed that in 2014 he got six percent of his hits to right field. That is up to 18 percent this year.
Schoop started the 2015 season with three homers, seven RBIs and with an OPS of .940 his first nine games. Then, he suffered a sprained right knee and it cost him 2 1/2 months. But he came back strong and looks poised to have a strong finish to the 2015 season.
“To be honest, last year I hit for a low average. The big leagues is hard, but I felt like I could do it,” he said. “You have to learn what the pitchers are trying to do to get you out. You learn every day. The mental part has been big for me, and I have to keep it up.”
About last night: An Oriole’s 3-1 lead in Kansas City turned into an 8-3 deficit in a flash. The latest loss drops the Orioles to 62-62, with five losses in a row heading into tonight’s game.
Other notes on the O’s:
* The Orioles have scored three runs or less in five straight and six of their last seven games. They have scored three or less in 23 of the last 42 games. They are 9-46 on the season when scoring three or less.
* The Orioles have hit just two homers over their last five games. They hit 15 in the previous six games.
* The Orioles’ five-game losing streak matches a season high set from April 20-24 and again from May 30-June 3.
* When Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning last night, the Orioles led 2-0. The biggest lead they had at any point in the American League Championship Series was one run.
* Since his extended hot streak, Chris Davis is 4-for-26 (.154) over his past eight games with 14 strikeouts. He is 0-for-9 with six strikeouts the last two games.
* Over his last 14 games, Jones is 19-for-57 (.333) with seven homers and 13 RBIs. In his last 24 games, Jones has hit nine homers with 21 RBIs.