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Orioles: Markakis continues to lead by example

BALTIMORE - Nick Markakis is never going to say a lot.

He's never going to be a flashy player or show much emotion on the field. And he certainly isn't going to be the central figure of a team that features the major-league leading home run leader, a franchise center fielder and a 20-year-old phenom.

But he does lead by example, making plays that his Baltimore Orioles teammates appreciate.

"Nick's the consummate professional," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "The guy doesn't get a lot of the credit he deserves because he just goes out there and does his business, nothing too flashy about him."

Markakis has been productive this year in two different spots in the lineup, both leading off and in the No. 3 hole. And the 2011 Gold Glove winner has made his share of great defensive plays while going error-free with four outfield assists through the Orioles' first 73 games.

But the thing that constantly impresses Baltimore manager Buck Showalter is Markakis' personality.

"He doesn't have an ego," Showalter said. "It's refreshing to be around him. It's about the Orioles. I think he knows I trust him and I think he trusts me."

And for good reason. The 29-year-old is hitting .294 with seven homers and 38 RBIs this season, and has never hit lower than .284 in a season.

Markakis also comes up with hits and run production at opportune times, like last Tuesday, when his two-run, seventh-inning single lifted the Orioles to a 3-1 win over the Angels. Twelve of the 38 runs he's driven in have been go-ahead RBIs, ranking second on the club in that stat, just one behind Chris Davis and Adam Jones.

"As a player, that's a situation you want to be in," Markakis said. "Just go up there, take a good approach, look for the pitch that you're looking for and try not to miss it."

The only player on the Orioles' roster who has been with the club longer is Brian Roberts. But with Roberts battling multiple injuries over the past few seasons - including 2013, the second baseman has played in just 118 games over the past four seasons - Markakis is typically the most experienced player on the field.

That experience and the way he carries himself has garnered respect from his younger teammates.

"He doesn't want to be the vocal leader, but when Nick says something, everybody listens," Wieters said. "That's something that speaks to what kind of guy he is and what kind of teammate he is."

Markakis was a member of some very bad Baltimore clubs. Before last year, he had never won more than 70 games in a season - and that was during his rookie season of 2006.

Markakis said the difference in the club is monumental.

"It's like comparing apples and oranges," said Markakis, who showed faith in the organization by signing a six-year, $66.1 million contract extension in 2009. "But I knew what this team and this city was capable of doing and becoming. I'm glad I made the decision, I think I made the right decision and we're right where we want to be."

In the latest All-Star voting update released last Saturday, Markakis had moved into third among American League outfielders. If he holds on, he won't just start his first All-Star Game, but it will also be his first appearance.

The team has come to expect his consistency both at the plate and in the field. Showalter said he rubs off on the other players, too.

"When some of your best players approach the game that way, it makes it really easy for the rest of them to see that way, because he does it," Showalter said. "It's something that the club needs him for."

Markakis missed Baltimore's first playoff series in 15 years after breaking his hand in early September. Showalter noted at the time how important Markakis has been to the team.

Markakis said it was great to see playoff baseball return to Baltimore, but now is hoping the team can get back so he can experience it first-hand.

"It's everything and more that I thought it would be," Markakis said. "It's just a matter of getting [back] there. ... We know where we need to be, and that's what we're working for."

No one is more appreciative of the team's success over the past two seasons than Markakis.

"He's been through it all," Wieters said. "He's been through the bad times and he's been through the good times."

The quiet, ego-free outfielder just hopes the best times are ahead for him and the Orioles.

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