As manager of the Orioles, Showalter has brought a shot of mojo to a moribund baseball team, thanks in no small part to his grim determination to win. In photos, his facial expressions usually range from "quasi-stern" to "full-on scowl."
But Showalter, 56, does have a soft side for Sader, Webster, Jasper and Opie — four floppy-eared basset hounds he and his wife, Angela, shuttle between their countryside home in northern Baltimore County and their off-season house in Texas. When Showalter's lounging at home, each dog takes a turn napping on his lap. He even keeps "animal crackers" in his office for them.
"I like to kid myself that they come to visit me," he said. "They act like they respond to commands, but they respond to cookies."
Get Showalter talking about those dogs, and his piercing brown eyes start to relax. For a moment, the Texas tough guy drops his guard, and you see the real Showalter: a down-home husband who loves his hounds — and baseball too.
Why basset hounds?
Why not? There's a story behind each one. [Opie] was a show dog. Its grandmother or something was a Westminster dog show finalist in the hound group, and my wife was going to show him.
We were getting ready to leave this lady's home — the farmhouse where she had these bassets. We'd driven about two hours from Dallas to get there, to Big Sandy, Texas. We were getting ready to leave, and the brothers [Jasper and Opie] were saying goodbye to each other. Everybody was in tears.
Finally, I said, 'All right. Just go get the brother.' So we ended up with [Jasper], too. He couldn't show because he had a deformity in his hips. He was the prettiest dog they had, but he had a slight cut in the womb. He looks like he's bowlegged. So we couldn't show him.
Do you come home, pick the dogs up and give them a big kiss on the mouth?
Depends on whether we've won or lost.
They like it up there in the county?
The scents of living out in the country like we do, it drives 'em crazy, really. Gets 'em active. ... I think the bloodhound has the No. 1 nose, and basset hounds are No. 2. I can open up a can of tuna fish on the other side of the house and these dogs just light up.
Every emotion they're feeling is evident. They don't get rattled too much. They're a calming influence on everybody around them.
They can sleep at the drop of a hat. They can fall asleep in 20 seconds. Carrying that skin and ears around all day, it tires you out.
Some people would say that you don’t get rattled that often either.
Oh, I wouldn’t say that. It makes me feel a little better when I’m gone — that they’re there.
In photos, you look like a serious guy.
I don't take myself nearly as seriously as people may think, but I do take the game seriously. I have three to four belly laughs here every day. You can't do this seven days a week for eight months for 30 years and take yourself seriously. I mean, we're playing a kids' game. It's an honor every day to be able to do this.
I loved the [video] prank you played on relief pitcher Darren O'Day, giving him hell for riding his Solowheel in the ballpark.
I didn't. I felt terrible about it afterward. I wish I hadn't done it, because I embarrassed Darren. I got talked into it by the rest of the guys in the bullpen. I hate embarrassing people like that.
Do you have a pre-game ritual?
Coffee. I have a percolator back there. Nowadays — it's our society — they shoot the water through it one time and you get it in 30 seconds. I've got an old-fashioned percolator [in my office]. It takes about 15 minutes to keep shooting the water back through the coffee grinds. People come from all over the stadium to get a cup.
Do you feel like Baltimore wants to believe in the Orioles?
No doubt. But we can't go out there and say, 'Gosh, we only had X number of people there tonight.' When you've had the struggles we've had, you've got to earn your way back into the dance.