SARASOTA, Fla. – This morning we'll see Nelson Cruz put on an Orioles uniform for the first time.
The club is holding a 9:30 a.m. news conference to introduce Cruz, who signed a one-year $8-million deal. After the conference, he will participate in his first workout.
Cruz seems to be pretty happy. He already has his locker nameplate from the Orioles clubhouse as his Twitter profile background.
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As for minor league outfielder Josh Hart, the team’s sandwich pick last season, here’s hoping he did his homework last night.
With Orioles Hall of Famer Frank Robinson here at the complex to speak to the team on Monday, Orioles manager Buck Showalter stopped the 19-year-old Hart, who was here with other top minor leaguers to participate in pitchers batting practice. Showalter asked Hart if he knew who Robinson was. He didn’t.
“And I said, ‘OK, I want tomorrow by this time I want a page on Frank Robinson,’” Showalter said he told Hart. “I said, ‘You go home, you research it and you come back tomorrow and have it on my desk.’”
Robinson’s arrival stirred an interesting conversation about cherishing the Orioles history. When he spoke to the media, Robinson said he’s felt a renewed connection to the franchise in recent years. He even pointed out that he’s pulled out the orange polo shirt he wore Monday out of his closet to wear – and represent the Orioles – more often.
I asked Robinson what’s been the root of that. He quickly said a lot of it started when Showalter arrived and continued when executive vice president Dan Duquette -- who invited Robinson to speak to the team this year -- came aboard.
“He agreed to do it and kind of wanted to too,” Showalter said. “That’s what made me feel great, not just that he agreed to it but that he wanted to do it. Our guys love Frank. He said, ‘I don’t know 10-12 minutes.’ He’s worth adjusting the schedule for -- if we push back half an hour to have the honor of listening to him talk about the Orioles and about baseball. He’s not supposed to be biased in the positions he’s had with MLB but it’s a fight for him.”
Numbers and photos of the Orioles Hall of Famers are prominently displayed in the Orioles clubhouse both at Camden Yards and here in Sarasota. And Showalter sees it as a way to honor the club’s rich history and legendary players while creating an environment that this is the next wave of great Orioles teams.
Just as photos of the Hall of Famers are up in the hallways, so are photos honoring current Orioles postseason accolades like Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards.
And Showalter makes sure they’re updated. Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy’s photos added their Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards from last year. Manny Machado’s picture went up in hallway this spring for winning the AL Platinum Glove, and Chris Davis’ did too for his Silver Slugger award.
“You’ll notice some of the pictures and stuff,” Showalter said. “The [retired] jersey numbers are there, the statues and stuff. I want these guys to graduate. I got here and there were pictures of people who didn’t even have their nose bloodied in the big leagues on the wall and I was like, ‘Hold on a second.’ We’re starting to be able to put up the Adam Jones and Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy [pictures]. They’ve accomplished something. I’m not saying they’re on par with the greats we had but we want these to be the good ol’ days. You’re also trying to blend both of them, but you want it to be something that they’re proud to be associated with.
“It’s such a fine line,” Showalter continued. “You don’t want to confuse change for a lack of respect for tradition. And it’s not necessarily change. It’s trying to get back. … What you want to have in common with them is winning. I tell guys all the time, ‘These are the good ol’ days. You’re gonna be talking about them [one day].’”