When Jonathan Schoop arrived at Camden Yards on Sunday morning, he was greeted by third-base coach Bobby Dickerson, whom Schoop has known since he was just 16 years old during his first days in the Orioles organization, and Schoop found Dickerson being oddly sentimental on the way from the parking lot to the clubhouse.
“He starts to say, ‘I’ll miss you, don’t forget about me if you go somewhere,’ like I got traded or something,” Schoop recalled. “And then he said [manager] Buck [Showalter] wanted to talk to [me. It was as if I were sent to] the principal’s office [thinking], ‘Did I do something wrong?’ ”
One of the most engaging parts of Schoop’s personality is his unassuming nature, and on what would become the biggest day of his promising baseball career, Schoop was genuinely worried he was in trouble. Confused, Schoop reported to Showalter’s office, where the Orioles’ second baseman was told in front of the team’s coaching staff that he has been selected to play in his first All-Star Game on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami.
“I’m just mind-[blown] right now,” Schoop said. "I’m excited, happy. My head is spinning everywhere right now. I’ll just go in there and try to enjoy it. But the next seven days we have right now, I’m trying to think of here first and win some games here and then the four days or whatever I’m trying to have fun over there and then come back second half, work harder and trying to win to achieve all of our goals of going to the playoffs.”
Schoop’s first half of the season has been a bright spot for the Orioles. As many of the team’s established players have muddled through inconsistency, Schoop is enjoying his best major league season, and found out Sunday that he will be rewarded for it with a trip to the All-Star Game.
“To finally see what he’s turning into as a player, it’s unbelievable to watch — as a hitter, as a second baseman, just his overall play,” said Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who came through the team’s minor league system along with Schoop and became good friends along the way. “He’ll take walks when he needs to take walks. His game has gone to another level, and finally other players and teams and coaches are finally seeing it and giving him a chance to represent this organization and represent himself in a good way.”
Schoop, who leads the Orioles with 51 RBIs and is tied with Machado for the most home runs with 16 after Sunday’s 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, was the only Orioles player selected Sunday, though more could be added as selected players pull out leading up to the game. But as of now, the Orioles will have just one representative in the All-Star Game for the first time since 2011. The Orioles have sent at least three players to the midsummer classic in each of the previous five years, including five players last year.
Schoop was one of five players selected by Major League Baseball to be an AL reserve, and the only position player among the five. He is also the fourth player from the Carribbean island nation of Curacao to become an All-Star, following five-time All-Star center fielder Andruw Jones, right-hander Jair Jurrjens and current Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
Dickerson, who purposely waited for Schoop in the Camden Yards parking lot Sunday morning to make sure no one ruined the surprise of telling him, teared up describing how proud he is of Schoop’s development into an All-Star.
“It was pretty cool because I go back with him all the way when I got hired in 2010, the first time I met him was down in the Dominican Academy,” Dickerson said. “Just a little skinny kid. He wasn’t even thought of as one of our big prospects. He was always second, third, fourth guy on the club. If you go all the way to Curacao, he was always [ranked] behind [current Texas Rangers utility player Jurickson] Profar, and then coming up with Manny obviously all the attention was on Manny. It was just really an awesome thing for me, just knowing what he has been through.”
Schoop faced intense competition for the berth, but his 39 extra-base hits (23 doubles and 16 homers) were best for AL second basemen entering Sunday’s game. He was tied with the Seattle Mariners’ Robinson Canó for the most home runs at the position, and his RBI total was second to Cano’s. The Houston Astros’ José Altuve, whose .327 batting average entering Sunday led all AL hitters, was elected to start the game at second.
Since Schoop returned from a serious knee injury two years ago that cost him two months, the Orioles have seen him blossom as an all-around player. He’s developed into a solid defender despite his unconventionally big size for the position (6 feet 1, 225 pounds) — Showalter had often lauded that few turn a double play better than Schoop — but this season, his maturation at the plate has paid tremendous dividends.
Schoop played in all 162 games last season and has played in all but two games this season. Since coming back from the knee injury, he ranks third among all AL second basemen in RBIs and fourth in homers.
“I lose words,” Schoop said. “I got hurt and they told me I had to be out two months. All I know since I was a kid was playing baseball. It was tough times for me to go through all this and now I’m an All-Star. I’m so excited. I can’t use the words. I’m happy right now.”
Schoop, 25, displayed the ability to hit for power early, but had previously been prone to long droughts because opposing pitchers could take advantage of his aggressiveness and make him chase breaking balls and pitches out of the zone. But this year, his patience has been evident. His on-base percentage of .352 is 52 points higher than his career average, and he’s drawn 18 walks approaching the All-Star break after taking just 21 all of last season.
“To be honest, [you] just go out there and play,” Schoop said. “And just play and try to do everything to win. And that’s a personal goal. Sometimes you want to achieve some goals, you know, and make the All Star and do other things, but I wasn’t worried too much about it. You got some friends and family, ‘Hey, you got a chance to make the All Star,’ but, I didn’t put too much attention on it and just come ready and work and try to win and whatever happens, right now I’m so excited and happy and humble.”
Schoop said he plans to stay at Machado’s house in Miami during the All-Star Game festivities. Machado said his doors are open.
“That’s what he always says,” Machado said with a smile. “He always says the same thing and he always ends up not coming. If he’s open to it, he can come stay with his family. He’s family. He’s like a brother to me. We’ve dealt with a lot of things in the minor leagues and up in the big leagues as well, a lot of the ups and downs. … Words can’t even describe how happy I am for him. I’m rooting for him.”