For years the Orioles have been mostly underachieving and directionless. A flame in the mid 2010’s turned into a fire but not one that lasted or left signs of hope for anything better. It’s been painful.
The rebuilding team has faced some circumstances unique to them and others shared across the sport as COVID forced lots of adjustments. Certain things have worked out well while other factors have presented challenges but the organization is in good shape on the farm and their ranking reflects vast improvement.
Tasked with examining the roster and finding a fan favorite, I thought of several names but landed on a guy with so many good qualities that he’s already started unifying and changing the mentality that’s crept in as the losing years pile up. Birdland boasts the top prospect in the game and I’d bet kids are already being named Adley all over Baltimore. Yet it’s the top arm throwing to Adley who I think presents the best case for fave of the fans.
Baltimore’s Future Ace
The top pitching prospect in the game is also property of the Baltimore birds, he’s righty Grayson Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the total package on the mound. A dominant high school career in Texas still couldn’t portend the fireballing future he’s taking hold of right now. Stats tell a big part of the story and his have been over the top.
Through about 50 games he has accumulated a 19-7 record with 310 strikeouts over 216 innings. Hitters flail to a .172 average and one gets a walk every 3 innings. He’s good at a level that’s nearing laughable. Hey, for Orioles fans just bringing any type of baseball happiness is a big step towards positive momentum.
If you watch a G Rod start, you’ll see a plan executed and many individual battles won. He knows exactly what he wants to do and gets to it with an arsenal that would make anyone confident. Breaking balls and change ups can come at you in any count and well located heat will most certainly supplement them and end your opportunity.
He’s an ace to be sure. But the bond he’s creating now is strong on the surface and beneath it.
What links him to the fans more than we realize is how much he cares and wants the same thing we want. The rebuild can make up for some of those painful years but Grayson just wants to win and mow down hitters on the way to the top. Now. He’s here to lead the staff and that’s not even a question at age 22. He’s truly it. Ask any informed baseball observer and they’ll acknowledge that O’s fans can brag about having the pitcher they’d all love to have. That’s definitely worth heaps of fandom.
There’s another ace, lefty DL Hall who is in the same class as Grayson but hasn’t had the level of success to this point. Hall’s skill is not in doubt, he has growth still ahead of him. Instead of any competition working against them, the pair has become tight friends and united in the goal of improvement and making each other better. They want to win in Orange and Black.
Gassing each other up became a thing. Grayson and some O’s minor league supporters took it further and made it an event. Gathering with enough empty fuel containers to bail out stranded drivers from Baltimore to Sarasota fans brought red gas cans to Bowie as he debuted at AA in June. If DL and Grayson are gassing each other up, fans rightfully wanted a piece of the fun. To me this brings back the Wild Bill Hagy (Google it) days where the stadium felt like a big family united in bird bliss. The early Camden Yards years brought some fun togetherness too, but that sadly faded out as the team just couldn’t get it right. The reprise in 2012-2014 reawakened some fans but not all of us.
The Grayson Effect
The Grayson effect isn’t fake either, I’ve met and talked with him at camp. He’s as serious a competitor when the fire is burning, and as childlike as can be to kids signing autographs and making their day. He gets it. So the prospect pack with their binders full of cards along with the younger than 10 crowd can get lots out of interacting with the ace who makes it all look pretty easy. These are bonds that are being and have been formed.
I remember way back when he was 20 thinking that he had the air of confidence where he could handle some adversity. To this point he’s barely faced any. Rooting for another football team may have presented some but Rodriguez is as crazy a Ravens supporter as any purple camo wearing fan can be. Endearing himself even further to his city, his favorite player is all-time great kicker Justin Tucker who Baltimore fans have grown to love over the years. Like any other young fan, Grayson sees himself in his idol and recently filmed himself knocking through a 40 yard field goal.
Being from Texas means a big profile is cool but legendary is how you become remembered. The kick is not the only exploit that’s brought the spotlight comfortably towards Grayson. In April of 2020 he was filmed doing long toss drills clearing a lake with his throws. I mean come on.
Agent Of Change
A losing culture needs so many things to influence change and an exit from the patterns that have made those negative outcomes. People need to be the force behind that change and it requires a confidence based in belief. Grayson rightfully believes in himself, and others follow his lead. The effect he’s had on fans, the organization and the baseball community as a whole is already measurable. But Birdland has an ace of our own, again after waiting so long. Supporting him is as easy for us as wasting a 9-hole hitter at 0-2 is to him. He’s made an impression and fans have responded in kind.
Grayson has the personality and leadership background to match his superb skill. A mentality that seeks out and tackles improvement every day, even if it’s just throwing a weighted ball in between starts is genuine where others want to be a part of that shift in culture. It most certainly hasn’t happened overnight, he was drafted way back in 2018. Soon he’ll be part of that homegrown battery that influenced a turnaround. Baltimore has a worthy ace in Grayson Rodriguez and he’s close to delivering some quality starts for O’s fans who have held out for so long. Think about it then admit it, he’s your favorite.
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