BOWIE, Md. - When the long grind of a professional baseball season ends it can be abrupt and jarring. There can be sadness that it ended and about how it ended. The Double-A Bowie Baysox players, staff and fans, no doubt, felt some of that last night.
On a cool night at Prince George’s Stadium, some of the magic we saw from the Baysox during the long, hot summer was not there. They hosted Games 3 and 4 in a series that left Trenton tied 1-1, but lost both games at home as the Thunder secured a fourth Eastern League championship and their first since 2013.
The Bowie offense that led the EL in runs, hits and doubles put up just five runs in their three losses in the series. They lost 5-2 last night, getting solo homers from Cedric Mullins and Anderson Feliz. But they were no-hit for five innings and already down 4-0 by then.
The Baysox scored just three runs on seven hits in the last two games.
“It was tough,” said Mullins. “They came out and competed. We didn’t have our best stuff at-bat today and it cost us. They were able to spot balls well and it took us a while to make the adjustments.”
Bowie was denied its second league title after they came from 1-2 down in games to beat Reading for the 2015 championship.
But the Baysox did two things that you like to see any minor league team do over the long season: They developed players and won games. You need to do the first, you sure like to add the second to the list when possible.
After a month of this Eastern League season, Bowie had lost 23 of 30 games and had the worst record in all of the minors. That is a list of 120 teams. But the Baysox went 46-26 to win the second half and 76-64 for the year. A 3-1 series win over Harrisburg was followed by the 3-1 loss to Trenton.
“For me, it’s been great. What a ride,” manager Buck Britton said. “Being 7-23 to start things off and then standing here in the championship. When you are with a group of guys they become family. You celebrate with them and hurt with them. I hope especially the fans see that there is some talent here. I know the situation right now in the big leagues, but I think things are going to start turning up for us.
“There are so many positive things to take away from this season. Tonight is tough to swallow. But these guys did a heck of a job, man. There is a lot of character in that room. I’m proud of the guys. They should be proud of themselves. This was special. You always remember the people you were surrounded with.”
Special indeed behind a prospect-laden starting rotation and players who took steps forward, including shortstop Mason McCoy, outfielder Yusniel Diaz - who looked more like a top 100 prospect in the second half - and Mullins, who tried to remind us late in the year to not take him off the 2020 Orioles depth chart.
Mullins went 12-for-34 (.353) in eight playoff games with two homers, 10 runs, five steals and five RBIs. He retooled his swing under the watchful eye of Bowie hitting coach Keith Bodie.
“Just (need to) continue to stay through the ball in my swing and not necessarily pull off,” Mullins said. “My swing has been in and out of the zone pretty quick and I’m starting to get the groove back where I can drive the ball.”
Mullins was asked if he can still be that player who excited the organization with his combination of speed, defense and some pop.
“Absolutely. No doubt,” he said.
After the loss, Britton said that he leaves next month to coach with Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. He called it a great opportunity. It should produce more solid experience for him on the bench. He’s played in the Dominican, but this will be his first time as a coach.
Speaking of coaches. Britton had plenty of praise for his staff, which includes two long-time O’s staffers in Bodie and pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, who just completed his 15th season with the club.
“I can’t tell you how many times I leaned on both those guys,” he said. “Keith, with all his managerial experience. For me, coming from A-ball the game is a lot faster here. To be able to rely on him, I asked questions during the game and he has answers right away. And Kennie. Managing a bullpen is not easy. He’s been great. I’ve learned so much from them. Hard to even describe how important they are.”
In an organization that is rebuilding with younger players, Britton said the message was clear in his clubhouse this year. Play well and your day in Baltimore could be coming.
“Yeah. Everyone in there dreams of playing in the big leagues, and there are not a lot of places with this much opportunity,” Britton said. “So guys in there really want to show they can play and, hopefully, when the door opens they are ready to step in and make a name for themselves.”
Two homers & 13 Ks from the pitching staff conclude a tremendous 2019 season.-- Bowie Baysox (@BowieBaysox) September 14, 2019
Congrats to the @TrentonThunder on a fantastic season overall.
See you all in April!
Recap at https://t.co/ID7P9o9gwW#PlayAtTheBay | #DiveIn pic.twitter.com/8j1tYDq8VA