There's a concept spreading around coaching circles to combat an increasingly individualistic culture in amateur baseball: Mudita.
While there's no direct English word to match the Buddhist term, there's certainly an example: Adley Rutschman.
"It's basically the expression of joy in other people's accomplishments," said Joe Taylor, who coached Rutschman’s summer-ball teams with Portland Baseball Club while the Orioles’ No. 1 draft pick was in high school. "So, basically unselfishness and just a love for your teammates. That's the one thing: He has so much fun, and he has so much fun seeing his teammates be successful."
In Rutschman — the Oregon State catcher who electrified college baseball over the past year — the Orioles might have an exception to the idea that one player can't change an entire team. People who know him best describe a player who might eventually change an entire franchise.
"Not only does this kid have the ability — catching, throwing, hitting from both sides of the plate, hitting from both sides of the plate with power, hitting in the clutch — his personality is so infectious, people gravitate to him because you can see that he's very, very confident," said Paul Mainieri, who managed Rutschman on the United States Collegiate National Team last summer.
"He balances it with great humility and team-oriented attitudes. He's the total package. I've been coaching for a lot of years — 37 to be exact. He's as special a person and a talent as I've come across in my lifetime."
However, one of his talents came sooner than the others, and everyone has a story about when they knew just how good he might be.
Jon Strohmaier, his coach at Sherwood High, kept hearing about Rutschman when was 8 or 9 years old playing Little League. When Strohmaier went to see him, he watched Rutschman single and steal three bases in a four-pitch span.
Nathan Hickok, who played at nearby George Fox University, where Rutschman’s father, Randy, coaches catchers, said the Orioles’ top pick had a better swing as a 10-year-old when hitting in the cages after practice than many of the college players.
Taylor recalled a doubleheader during Rutschman's junior summer when he hit for the cycle left-handed, then missed it by a double right-handed.
"One of the most impressive, athletic things I've ever seen," Taylor said.
Rutschman was a standout football player at that time, too, but it was around then that he started to break out on the field. But he didn't carry it in competition the way he does now.
"I don't think he was very comfortable being the stud … even though he was definitely that,” Hickok said. “He was a very reserved kid and worked incredibly hard in practice, but was more of a leader by example and not really a vocal leader or anything beyond that."
Randy Rutschman saw that aspect of his son develop during his last year of high school. He had already committed to Oregon State, and was on his way to being named Oregon’s Gatorade Player of the Year when he split his pursuits between trying to make himself the best he can be and actively doing that for everyone around him.
"The realization hit him, and he started feeding off that," Randy Rutschman said. "He started realizing, 'I can be an impact. I can be a force out here for good.' That just kind of grew, the idea that I think he just started seeing more and more things positive happen as a result of what he was doing.
"Once he realized that was such a primary goal, I think he got way more involved in building the people around him. He realized, 'If I build the people around me, we can win more. This is good.' "
That growth hit overdrive at Oregon State. His first year there, he played regularly behind the plate, but hit .234 without much pop on a College World Series team. He knew it wasn't good enough, so he used his summer in the Cape Cod league to revamp his swing, making himself a hitter with an easier load who was on time more often down the road. That made for a frustrating few months.
But the resulting player — the one who batted .408 with an 1.133 OPS and nine home runs as a sophomore, with a record-setting 17 hits in the College World Series as Oregon State won a national championship and he was named Most Outstanding Player — did more than just dominate. He was a driving force on a talented team, and he made everyone better.
"He loves when other people do well, and he hates losing — in anything," Oregon State coach Pat Bailey said.
The rest of the college baseball elite saw that first-hand. Rutschman missed the collegiate national team’s first five-game series last summer because of the College World Series, but joined the team for its second series against Japan.
He was getting the buzz his fellow sophomores on the team wanted — consideration for the first overall pick this summer — and had been the star of the sport's grandest competition just days earlier. And nobody begrudged him any of it.
"He was a pinch-hitter [the first game] just to kind of get his feet wet," Mainieri said. "The next night, he caught and hit a big double 1-0 and we won 1-0 in a thrilling game where we scored in the ninth against Japan. He caught the last strike of a 1-0 game in front of a packed house in Durham, N.C. He gave the big fist pump and hugged the pitcher as if he'd been with our team for a year. It's amazing how quickly he just adapted to the new team, and how much respect he garnered from everybody.
Baltimore Orioles Insider Newsletter
Want to be an Orioles Insider? The Sun has you covered. Don't miss any Orioles news, notes and info all baseball season and beyond.
"It was kind of an awkward thing for most people to join a team already in the midst of a tour, but it was amazing to me just how seamlessly he just kind of moved in, and not only was accepted and became a part of the squad but how he literally became the best player on the team right out of the gate. You would never know it because Adley is so humble and so team-oriented, that it was really easy for everybody to accept him."
They quickly saw Rutschman's talent wasn't unearned. They saw he wanted it badly, and he wanted it just as badly for them as well.
"I don't think [people] understand how good he is behind the plate: dealing with pitchers, blocking balls and throwing guys out," said Cadyn Grenier, who the Orioles drafted out of Oregon State last summer. "Just about everything you could want from a catcher, he does it phenomenally. He's an amazing teammate. He's a really hard worker, he's a lot of fun to be around. He's really easy to like."
That extended right up until his last official act as an Oregon State baseball player, when he had not only his family but his teammates in the player's lounge with him when he was selected first overall by the Orioles.
"Adley's a breath of fresh air," Bailey said. "From parents to everybody, it's just crazy how many people are self-centered. All they care about is themselves.
"I'm just telling you, to be truly happy in life, you've got to make other people more important than yourself. That's why Adley is who he is. He's just a great guy, and he's a really happy person because of it."