It was a quick diaspora from Baltimore for many of the Orioles' players after their nightmare 115-loss season ended, but a pair who have sought through their ups and downs on the field to be more than uniformed presences in the city were back in town Monday for a charity event.
First baseman Chris Davis and right-hander Mike Wright Jr. represented the Orioles at the second annual Beltway Brews and Boards Celebrity Cornhole Tournament at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, an event featuring those two and dozens of current and former Ravens to benefit the Players Philanthropy Fund, an athlete-driven charity network founded by Ravens Ring of Honor member Matt Stover.
It's been a quiet time for players and staff left with the Orioles organization, but the pair had equal parts gratitude for what the team accomplished under since-dismissed manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette and excitement for the change that's to come.
"With Buck and Dan being gone now, there's a lot of unknowns," Davis said. "I think after the season was over, for me personally, it was just a chance to really kind of check out and hit the reset button. Obviously, this year was tough not only personally but as far as the team was concerned as well.
"As a guy who's going to be here the next few years, I'm excited for the chance for a little bit of change. It's a little sad to see Buck leave after having played for him for seven years, and really, having had so much success and a lot of really good memories. But I'm excited for what the future holds. We have a lot of young guys who may get a chance to prove themselves in the next few years, and hopefully, we can get this thing back on track and start winning again."
Wright, who was making a return appearance at the event after participating in the inaugural event last year, said he enjoyed being around the newcomers on the roster.
"It's exciting because there's a lot of young guys early in their careers, and there's a lot of excitement with that," Wright said. "But you never know what you're going to get. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. As tough a season as we had, it's exciting thinking about what the future holds, regardless of who's going to come in. I'd definitely say excited is the best word for it.
"Buck did nothing but good from the time he stepped foot in Baltimore. They had 14 losing seasons in a row, then Buck came and the environment changed. I hope whoever comes in can keep that winning environment. Obviously, coming off last year's season, it's going to be tough to go straight into a playoff team. But just having the hope of eventually getting to that level again is exciting, so whoever comes in, I hope he has the same winning mindset."
Like everyone outside the organization, Davis and Wright are waiting to find out who will be leading the next era of Orioles baseball. An unspoken news embargo during the World Series means the team's search for front office and field leadership could stretch into November, but that uncertainty didn't stop Davis and Wright from coming back to town to enjoy Monday's event.
Davis and his wife, Jill, have taken on public roles as ambassadors for the University of Maryland Children's Hospital and Casey Cares since he signed his seven-year, $161 million contract in 2016. They came back from Texas for the event and said mingling with fans and giving back to the community provide some necessary context after the team struggled to one of the worst seasons in baseball history.
"Being a part of a community like Baltimore, being involved like Jill and I are really puts things in perspective," Davis said. "It gives a chance to kind of identify with people on a different level than being a baseball player and a baseball player's wife.
“It gives people a chance to kind of see us in a different light and kind of get to know us a little bit, and for us, it gives us a chance to get to know the people in Baltimore, to serve and give back to the community and give back."
Wright and his wife, Madison, have likewise tried to use their platform to benefit those around them. Wright's charity, Wright State of Mind, is inspired by his mother, Sherry, and benefits dementia research and care for those affected by the disease. And his public presence with that organization means he knows what other athletes with missions like Stover's are dealing with in their work, so he's happy to be a part of their events.
"The biggest reason we came last year was because we wanted to be involved in the community of Baltimore, so obviously, when they asked us to come back again, we were all for it," Wright said. "We didn't want to put a foot in and get back out. We wanted to stay in the community. We love the city of Baltimore and all the things they've given us, so for Matt Stover and different people to ask to do their nonprofit events, we're in.”