The Orioles honored a group of minor league standouts Saturday — a group that might return to Camden Yards sooner than later as part of the team’s rebuild — and the festivities included a special guest.
Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson attended the festivities to present Orioles rookie center fielder Cedric Mullins with the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year award that bears his name.
“It’s top-tier,” Mullins said of receiving the award. “Just being able to say I had this strong of a year is huge.”
Robinson received a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd when he was introduced during the pregame award ceremony.
While Robinson said he’s still getting used to watching a new group of players, he’s a fan of Mullins, 23.
“I know he can play center field,” Robinson said. “It just depends on how he’s going to hit. I saw him hit that double last night. That would have been a long single for me. But it just gives you opportunity. I kind of draw a parallel to when I signed in ’55, we had lost 100 games in ’54. ... But it gave an opportunity for a lot of people to play here in the big leagues and that’s what it’s all about if we’re going to start a rebuild. I’m happy for him. He loves to play and that’s it.”
Robinson has watched this Orioles season — which will likely end with a club record for losses in a season — from afar, but said there is reason for optimism.
“There should be a great optimism,” he said. “I don’t get down here enough to see it in the clubhouse. But when I went to spring training in ’56 and we had a lot, a lot of kids and they all knew we had a chance. And I’m sure that’s what they’re saying over there in the Orioles clubhouse. But it’s a chance and that’s all they want. You never know. You look at a kid and think, ‘How’s he going to make the big leagues?’ and the next thing you know he’s playing.”
Robinson might still need a roster to keep track of a team full of new players, and is seeing some mistakes inexperienced players make, but said success should come in time.
“I tell you what, I don’t know them by name. I just watch it,” he said. “We make a lot of mistakes base running, but I think when they first get here, the game is a little fast for them and harder. And that’s what it seems to me. They’ve just got to try to relax and play like they did in the minor leagues. But I don’t know. The kid, [Renato] Núñez, who plays third base, he makes some great plays over there. It all comes down to how you’re gonna hit but that might take a while. That’s the big deal.”
Aside from Mullins, left-handers Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther shared the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award.
While Palmer wasn’t in attendance, he sent a congratulatory tweet to Akin and Lowther.
Triple-A manager Ron Johnson received the Cal Ripken Sr. Award, given to the minor league staff member who best epitomizes Ripken’s qualities as an instructor. Rich Morales, the scout who signed Mullins as well as catcher Austin Wynns and reliever Ryan Meisinger, received the Jim Russo Scout of the Year award.
Delmarva outfielder Zach Jarrett won the Elrod Hendricks Award for exemplary community service. Bowie right-hander Dean Kremer, one of five players received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade, was honored for leading the minors with 178 strikeouts, and Gulf Coast League trainer Adam Sparks was honored for receiving the PBATS GCL Trainer of the year award.