On the site and in the paper this morning are two Orioles-related items worth checking out.
Jeff Zrebiec’s annual midseason grades are definitely worth a read. He puts a lot of time into those and tries to be as fair and honest as possible.
And I have a longer piece about Matt Wieters, the club’s lone All-Star and emerging leader.
Like many of these stories, you do a lot of research and you can only use so much in print. There is plenty that didn’t make it in story form. So, technically, these are leftovers, but I thought I’d pass them on.
One was a story that Wieters’ mom, a high school English teacher, told me that demonstrated his selflessness goes pretty far back. Apparently, an author visited his elementary school when he was in first grade. The man signed a bunch of his books, and Wieters’ mother bought several titles for Matt.
He kept one and gave the rest to friends who didn’t have any of the signed books. He didn’t think they should be left out, his mom said. Pretty heady stuff for an elementary schooler. His mom said that was typical of a kid who helped take care of his grandfather when he was sick and made sure to visit his grandmother every day this spring when she was in the hospital in Sarasota, Fla. (she fell ill while visiting Wieters).
Given how grounded Wieters seems, I asked Orioles manager Buck Showalter whether he was concerned that the All-Star bid at age 25 could go to Wieters’ head and change him.
“I don’t ever say never, but of anybody, it shouldn’t. I think it can only help him,” Showalter said. “Because I think it kind of verifies the return he is getting for what he is putting into it. This is a reward for what you put into it. You can say the same thing about Adam [Jones] and his efforts this year. But I think Matt it will only increase the confidence level of things he is doing and the work he is putting in to be good at his trade.”
Another thing I thought was interesting was that Wieters was only 5 feet 6 as a high school freshman. His sister, Rebecca, who was two years older and a collegiate volleyball player, is 6 feet 2, and his dad, Richard, is 6 feet 5.
There was a question as to whether Matt would be as tall as his dad, who was a minor league pitcher, but Matt didn’t care about that. He just wanted to be taller than his big sister (and at 6 feet 5, he is now. Though his dad may still be smidgen taller than Matt).
Also, I put a request into the Seattle Mariners' Justin Smoak, who went to high school with Wieters. This is what Smoak said: “I was very happy to learn that Matt was selected to the American League All-Star team. It is a very well-deserved honor to be chosen as one of the best. … We played together growing up, so I know how very hard he has worked to get to this point in his career. I look forward to watching him on Tuesday in the game.”
One last thing: I asked Wieters whether he thought making the All-Star Game gives him a little more credibility to be a leader in the clubhouse. I was impressed with his answer:
“I really feel that whether I made the All-Star Game doesn’t help me in the clubhouse as far as calling [a game] or dealing with a pitching staff. I don’t think the All-Star Game, just the honor, gives you that much more cred. I think the things that lead up to you making the All-Star Game gives you more credibility. Especially with the guys that you are with every day. Look at guys like Nicky [Markakis], who has never made an All-Star Game. He has the most cred in that locker room because you see what he does every day.”