Nationally televised play gives Orioles a chance to ‘exactly showcase what we’re building here’ – Baltimore Sun

The last time a national audience watched the Orioles play in ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” game, Baltimore lost 5-3 to the New York Yankees at Camden Yards. It was August 26, 2018.

A lot has changed since then.

At this point in the season, sales have already occurred, marking the start of Baltimore’s rebuilding. Even so, none of the nine players on that night’s starting roster are staying with the Orioles anymore, with Trey Mancini, who was the last to leave. For the remainder of the season following the defeat in front of a nationally televised crowd, Baltimore would spend the first of its 100 losing seasons out of the spotlight.

But when the Orioles arrive at the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania on Sunday, the eyes of the country will be on them once again as part of an ESPN broadcast.

Players do not focus on which channel their game appears on. But there is a perception around the clubhouse that a wider audience is an opportunity – a chance to show how far they’ve come in all four seasons since their last appearance on “Sunday Night Baseball.”

And a chance to prove that Baltimore deserves attention once again.

“This is a great platform and I think it’s going to showcase what we’ve done all year and what people still don’t want to believe, you know what I mean?” right-handed Spenser Watkins said. “In a nationally televised game, we can showcase exactly what we’ve built here.”

After their loss against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, they formed an unlikely playoff contender 2 1/2 games behind the last wild card spot in the American League. With 62 wins, Baltimore has already surpassed the win total for each of the past three seasons.

This match in Williamsport was originally scheduled for 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has shelved the attempt. Now the Orioles will head to Bowman Field as a team worth watching.

“Before the season, when people saw who was playing, they were like, ‘Oh, okay, it’s just Boston and the Orioles,'” said left-handed John Means, who was recovering from Tommy John’s surgery. There were very few Orioles who had ever experienced the game of “Sunday Night Baseball”. “Now it’s like, this is a hard game. … I hope people come to see this team play, because it’s really special. Every time I come back it feels like something new and wonderful is happening with them.”

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The Orioles have not made the playoffs since 2016. In 2017, they reached the basement of the American League East when it set the stage for a late slip for the fire discount in 2018. Now, even with a four-game record of over .500, the rivalry in the AL East is battling Baltimore for a wild place instead of a pennant.

Games against divisional rivals, such as Sunday’s game in Boston, will go a long way in determining whether the Orioles will return post-season after a five-season hiatus. It may also show the ESPN viewer that Baltimore is a force to be reckoned with, but infielder Tyler Nevin said, “We like to be under the radar and people don’t take us seriously.”

“But I think there were rumors about it,” Nevin said. “Earlier in the year it was like, ‘Hey, look what we’re doing’. Now it’s like, ‘Yeah, we expect to do that’.”

When fans connect to Baltimore’s first game of “Sunday Night Baseball” in four years, they will see a different team than the last one shown. Watkins said the biggest difference is how athletic and adaptable this iteration of the club is, playing with energy and having a firm grasp of the fundamentals.

Left-back Nick Vespi said the team’s willingness to fight towards the end of the games will stand out the most. Means said those entering the game will see “the good side of baseball” with a team that brings real joy to the pitch every day, just like in the Little League.

Whatever fans get from seeing the Orioles replay a nationally televised game, there’s another lesson to be learned. Baltimore is no longer lazy, and the baseball world can realize that.

“We don’t knock on the door anymore,” Nevin said. “He was here. And you must take us seriously.”

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