Former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina threw out the ceremonial first pitch Sunday for the team that launched his Hall of Fame career.
Mussina, who played 10 of his 18 seasons with the Orioles, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 21.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who got to stand behind the plate and catch Mussina’s pitch, said it was the first time he had met Mussina, and it was an honor.
“That was a treat to all of us to have him here, and hopefully he comes around more,” Hyde said.
Mussina’s hat will not bear the Orioles logo, though, nor will it have the logo of the New York Yankees, for whom he pitched eight seasons after leaving the Orioles.
The decision to go logo-less took Mussina about 15 minutes, he said.
“I can't decide between the two organizations,” Mussina said. “One got my career started. One put me on a huge stage for a lot of years. And I wouldn't be going to Cooperstown without either one of them.”
Ultimately, the Hall of Fame decides what goes on the hat, but it was willing to go with Mussina’s decision.
When Mussina joined the Orioles in 1991, just a year after he was drafted, he quickly got the chance to play because the team was not doing well.
“The Baltimore Orioles … put me out there and said, ‘Kid, go do what you can do,’ ” Mussina said. “And I stayed out there for 10 years.”
During those 10 years, Mussina was a five-time American League All Star, won four Gold Glove Awards and finished in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting five times, including a second-place finish in 1999.
Mussina finished his time as an Oriole with a 147-81 record and 3.53 ERA.
In 2001, Mussina signed with the Yankees, where he won three more Gold Gloves and six AL East titles. And, just as it seemed his career was winding down in 2008, Mussina had his first 20-win season with a 3.37 ERA, becoming the oldest first-time 20-game winner.
After the 2008 season, Mussina retired with seven Gold Gloves and five All-Star selections.
Eleven years later, in January 2019, Mussina was told his name will join the baseball greats in Cooperstown.
It took six out of the 10 allowed appearances on the ballot, and even so, he squeaked by with just 1.7% more than the required 75% threshold of votes. But Mussina said he was just glad to be part of the conversation.
After five months to prepare and with just one month to go until induction ceremonies, Mussina still hasn’t fully grasped that he has reached the pinnacle of baseball success.
“I think once I get on the stage and have to speak and you're being presented with the plaque and there's all these current Hall of Famers sitting behind you, I think that's when it's really going to set in that this is the Mount Everest of baseball and I get to be part of it,” Mussina said.
Mussina said he is still involved with baseball as a coach and batting practice pitcher, but he has no plans of involvement at the professional level. But, even 11 years of retirement hasn’t taken the heat out of Mussina’s pitches.
“He still has hop to his fastball,” Hyde said. “He hit the outside block like he normally did back in the day.”
Scott optioned to Norfolk
After the Orioles’ 2-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, left-handed pitcher Tanner Scott was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
Scott pitched two shutout innings with four strikeouts in a 13-0 win over the Indians on Saturday. He’s pitched in 12 games with a 5.56 ERA.
“That's major league, back-end stuff when you've got 96 [mph] and you've got a slider that goes straight down,” Hyde said about Scott after Saturday’s game.
The open spot will likely be filled with the starter for Monday’s game, which has yet to be announced.
Around the horn
Manager Brandon Hyde said the Orioles’ starter Monday is still to be determined, but that it wouldn't be another bullpen game. ... Right-hander Josh Lucas (shoulder) threw another bullpen session and is nearing a return from the injured list, Hyde said. ... The Orioles signed three more draft picks Sunday: first baseman Andrew Daschbach (Round 11), right-hander Dan Hammer (Round 13) and right-hander Houston Roth (Round 29). The Orioles have signed all of their picks from the top 33 rounds, totaling 35 draftees overall.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.