SARASOTA, Fla. - It is a nice sight for Orioles fans. Former O’s shortstop J.J. Hardy back in the orange and black. He was back wearing team colors Monday as he began a week-long run in camp as a guest instructor.
A very popular Oriole from 2011-2017, Hardy was known for airtight defense and remarkable consistency at shortstop. He’s also remembered for the great slide at home to score the go-ahead run on the Delmon Young three-run double in the 2014 American League Division Series. He was a team leader and part of three O’s postseason teams. He won Gold Gloves from 2012-2014 and was an All-Star and Silver Slugger in 2013 for the Orioles.
He admitted during a Monday postgame interview that he hasn’t watched a regular-season baseball game in two years, but said he has watched in the postseason.
But he enjoyed a day to be back with the Orioles on Monday at Ed Smith Stadium.
“There’s a good vibe here,” said Hardy. “You know I’ve been looking forward to it. It’s good to show my face again. The team is totally different - coaching staff, front office - everything has changed in two years. So, it doesn’t quite feel the same. But the atmosphere, baseball, the guys, the camaraderie in the clubhouse is the same, yes.”
I asked him if the good vibe is a good sign for the team or just a positive that most teams experience in spring camp.
“I don’t know. Just seeing two ping pong tables in there and a little tournament going on, that says a lot,” Hardy said. “They are keeping it loose. The first meeting out on the field before stretch, (manager Brandon) Hyde says, ‘Hey, I don’t think the ping pong tournament is moving along as fast as it should be. You guys need to start playing.’ Kind of cool.”
Hardy retired after the 2017 season but still keeps very active, especially at home with two young children.
“I miss the camaraderie in the clubhouse,” he said. “I miss the competition. I’m finding that playing other sports. I don’t miss the way my body felt and the travel. And I remind myself all the time how I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m not crawling to the toilet. I’m actually able to walk and not be hurting. Or I go on a hike walking down a mountain and my knees don’t hurt. I got about 18 years younger when I retired.”
He’s not going to make any moves anytime soon, but Hardy indicated Monday he might be open to a future coaching position.
“Well, I definitely haven’t said no completely to that. That is kind of why I’m here. I want to keep my foot in the door. Not be forgotten. Because I think there will be a time for that. Just right now with the kids at the age they are, it’s not right now.”
The club has had six guest instructors in this camp. They are Mike Bordick, Jeff Conine, Ben McDonald, Scott McGregor, Brian Roberts and Hardy.
It’s a nice link to former players for the Orioles, even if Hardy isn’t sure he’ll be too hands-on in any coaching over the next week.
“I still don’t know what I’m expecting,” he said. “Like I really have no idea. I was coming out here and basically waiting to be told, ‘Go do this or go do that.’ I’ve got a week of whatever you guys want me to do.”
Hardy said he wanted to meet with O’s vice president Sig Mejdal to learn about more analytics, especially for infielders. As for the rest, he’s ready to help in any way.
“I haven’t picked up a bat in two and a half years. If they want me to hit some fungoes, we’ll see how that goes. If they want me to throw BP, we’ll see how that goes. If I see something from a player I might say something or maybe I’ll say something to a coach. I don’t want to step on anyone’s feet. If they come ask me questions, I’ll answer them.”
Elias on Orioles.com today: I’ll bring you coverage of the next two Orioles games today and tomorrow from the east coast of Florida on the live stream on Orioles.com or MLB At-Bat. During today’s broadcast, which begins with the Orioles against the Nationals at 1 p.m., O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias will join me early in the game. During the game Wednesday versus the Marlins, new O’s broadcaster Brett Hollander joins me.
The Orioles and Rays played to a 3-3 tie on Monday in Sarasota. The O’s are without a loss over their last six games, going 5-0-1, and they are 6-4-1 in 11 Grapefruit League games. Lefty Ty Blach gets the start today against Washington’s Max Scherzer.
More J.J.: Hardy threw out the first pitch before Monday’s game and also met a special fan.
“He didn’t need to frame that,” Hardy said of Chris Davis catching his first pitch.
First pitch honors 🧡 pic.twitter.com/Cpr7k242LG-- Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) March 2, 2020
Write it into existence. pic.twitter.com/N0zzb0dy76-- Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) March 2, 2020