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NOTEBOOK

O's Markakis receives Tim Wheatley Award, named for former Sun editor

Reliver Belfiore has bittersweet major league debut vs. Red Sox

By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

8:02 PM EDT, September 28, 2013

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Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis and his wife, Christina, have worked to enrich the lives of distressed children across Maryland through their non-profit charity, The Right Side Foundation, while contributing to other philanthropic causes throughout the Baltimore area.

For that, Markakis was awarded this year's annual Tim Wheatley Award, which was created in 2010 by the Baltimore Sun Media Group to honor a local athlete whose contributions off the field are as important as those on the field. Markakis was presented the award prior to Saturday's game.

It is named for Tim Wheatley, The Baltimore Sun's sports editor from 2006 to 2009, who was killed in a car accident while driving his daughter, Sarah, to school on Oct. 5, 2009. Wheatley was a strong believer in community service.

The award was presented to Markakis by Wheatley's children -- David, Will and Sarah -- and his wife, Beth.

Nick and Christina Markakis helped fund the Orioles' annual Christmas Party last December, when 100 local inner-city students ate and played video games at a local Dave & Buster's with current and former Orioles.

"It's been really important to us," Markakis said. "My job is not only to play baseball but be involved with the fans and be involved in the community. Most important to us is being involved with the kids. There's a lot more to it than just going out there and playing baseball, especially being with the organization you got drafted by and came up though.

"This is my home, this is where I've been my whole career. You don't have to, but we choose to be involved as much as we can with the kids in the community."

In conjunction with the Orioles' charitable foundation, they also selected 12 servicemen and women from each of the four military branches to shop at the Under Armour Factory Store. Another deserving family from Ft. Meade was given a shopping spree at a local Target, courtesy of The Right Side Foundation.

Nick and Christina Markakis were also race ambassadors for last month's Casey Cares 5K race and Markakis made $75,000 of contributions to the Orioles charitable foundation.

The other finalist for the Wheatley Award was Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.

Last year's Wheatley Award winner was Ravens running back Ray Rice. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones received the award two years ago and the first winner was Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth.

Belfiore has bittersweet debut

When Orioles rookie left-hander Mike Belfiore was told to warm up in the top of the eighth inning Friday night, he was told he'd make his major league debut against Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

The 24-year-old Belfiore, in his third stint on the big league roster, had warmed up once before, but hadn't yet entered a game. On Friday, he finally made his major league debut against one of the game's best sluggers.

Ortiz's welcome was abrupt. He took Belfiore's 2-1 pitch into the left field stands for a three-run homer.

"I hadn't been in a game in a month and just trying to make something happen, almost try to get him to get himself out," Belfiore said. "It was a kind of [my] 'welcome to the show' moment."

Belfiore played collegiately at Boston College, so most of his college friends are Red Sox fans. The BC baseball team plays the Red Sox every season during spring training and their alumni dinner is at Fenway Park.

"It was kind of one of those moments that was really crazy how it all happened," Belfiore said. "My nerves really didn't get the best of me. I was just trying to execute my pitches. Unfortunately, he's one of the best in the game. Kind of looking back on it, it was kind of a surreal moment and something I'll never forget, one of those stories I'll always be able to tell. It's kind of a full-circle story."

Regardless of the outcome, Belfiore — who was 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in 76 1/3 innings at Triple-A Norfolk — said he's glad to get his debut out of the way.

"It's kind of that first step," he said. "Now I can look forward to trying to make this team and doing whatever I can. This is my first year around this atmosphere and next year I can say I've been through it, now it's time to make progress and be a helpful addition here."

Around the horn

Rookie RHP Kevin Gausman is a candidate to pitch in the instructional league or even get a few outings at the Arizona Fall League, Showalter said. No final decision has been made yet. … Showalter said he's still leaning toward starting right-hander Chris Tillman in Sunday's season finale, regardless of the importance of the game for Boston. In 10 career starts against the Red Sox, Tillman is 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA and six quality starts. In five home starts against Boston, he is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA and three quality starts.