NEW YORK — For much of Ryan Mountcastle’s baseball career, the Orioles first baseman’s mind is preoccupied when he gets to first base or beyond. He takes off his batting gloves and hands them to the bat boy. He checks his surroundings and prepares to lead off.
But this season, there comes a chorus from the dugout — “Mounty! Mounty! Mounty!” — and he remembers the new addition to his routine. He turns toward that yelling group of teammates, forms a pair of circles with his hands and brings them to his eyes.
“To everyone else in the world, it’s binoculars,” center fielder Cedric Mullins said.
But to the Orioles, it’s so much more.
It’s a chance to celebrate together, a unity that can lead to more energy in the dugout and on the basepaths. And it’s a chance to recognize what is for many of them their favorite game: Call of Duty. So when the Orioles reach base, they cup their hands around their eyes, pretending to call in a precision airstrike like they do in the video game by using a virtual pair of binoculars.
“Whenever somebody gets a hit, you hear the whole dugout yelling to do it,” Mountcastle said. “Brings a little energy.”
When the Orioles returned to Baltimore for the team’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, infielder Rougned Odor gathered a group of players. He’s been around the league since 2014, and in his experience, teams with a unifying ritual tend to be the tightest. The idea isn’t new in Baltimore, either. The 2019 squad celebrated base knocks with a faux-bazooka and a fake lawnmower.
Odor and infielder Jorge Mateo began playing Call of Duty together when they arrived at spring training. Mullins, Mountcastle and a handful of others also play. So in that impromptu team meeting, Odor thought of something many of them could relate with.
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When playing Warzone, a game mode in Call of Duty, most of the Orioles players have a similar tactic. They buy a precision airstrike once they receive enough in-game cash. And once they knock an opposing player down, they target that airstrike on where the enemy fell, so the opposing player and his teammates are under even more duress in the free-for-all shooting game.
“We use a sniper,” Odor explained. “When you shoot somebody, make him down, we throw the precision to finish it.”
In that meeting, the very first idea Odor threw out was to don a fake pair of binoculars, hinting at their shared tactic in Call of Duty. For instance, when infielder Ramón Urías worked a walk-off walk to beat the Yankees earlier this month, his first move was to grin and bring his hands to his face.
It’s caught on quickly, even if some in the clubhouse are left blissfully unaware as to what a precision airstrike is in Call of Duty.
“I know it has something to do with a video game,” first baseman Trey Mancini said. “I do it because everybody else does.”
And that’s exactly why Odor suggested the shared ritual. When the Orioles are batting, the dugout is engaged, ready to remind players like Mountcastle to don a pair of Call of Duty-inspired binoculars to celebrate reaching base.
“When you have those little things that create more energy in the team, the whole team comes together,” Odor said. “That’s the whole point: to create energy and make the team more together. I think that’s the big key to winning games.”