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Baltimore Orioles

Orioles’ home run chain links long balls and light hearts: ‘When we have fun, we play good’

Ryan Mountcastle saw that enticing gold chain hanging from a hook at Rougned Odor’s locker before Wednesday night’s game. He wanted something that icy — heavy golden links with an Orioles logo attached — dangling from his neck.

But before he or any of his teammates could don that chain, they needed to hit a home run.

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“Maybe tonight,” Mountcastle said, speaking into existence the impending offensive outburst from Baltimore that resulted in two of his teammates wearing that swag in the dugout during a 9-4 win over the Minnesota Twins at Camden Yards. The long balls off the bats of Cedric Mullins and Ramón Urías officially christened the home run chain, a new addition to the Orioles’ post-hit festivities.

First came an imaginary pair of binoculars, a hat-tip to calling in a precision airstrike in Call of Duty, many of the players’ favorite video game. And now there’s the chain, with Odor again the ringleader. But how it came to be in Odor’s possession is a mystery even he doesn’t know the answer to after it materialized at his locker during a series against the Boston Red Sox last week.

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Odor didn’t need to know where it came from, however. He knew what to do when it appeared.

“Somebody bring it to me,” Odor said. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ I don’t know who bring it to me. I’m just gonna keep this and I’m going to bring it to the dugout.”

“He just brought it out to the dugout one day,” Trey Mancini added. “I was like, ‘I guess we have a home run chain now.’”

The presence of the chain adds another way to hype up an offense that has shown few bright spots before Wednesday’s two-homer, nine-run outburst against former Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy. But to Odor, the presence of team-oriented traditions is vital.

When the Orioles reach base, they cup their hands and bring them to their eyes, pointing the binoculars to their teammates in the dugout. And now when Baltimore hits a homer, the chain is passed from player to player.

It’s common for teams to adopt a home run celebration in the dugout. The Washington Nationals in 2019, for instance, pretended as if they were driving a race car. The Philadelphia Phillies wear a cowboy hat when they go deep. Other teams have done laundry basket rides or piggyback rides. So Odor wanted the Orioles to have their own routine after a trip around the bases.

“That’s the way that I am,” Odor said. “I love this game, I love to have fun. Because when we have fun, we play good. When we play so serious, I don’t like that. I like to have fun, enjoy the game, play hard.”

By the time Odor decided to begin a new tradition with the home run chain, the bats went cold. Baltimore scored three combined runs against the Twins in losses Monday and Tuesday, and the ball didn’t leave the yard.

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So Monday, when right-hander Félix Bautista reached the dugout following 1 2/3 strong innings out of the bullpen, the rookie decided to give the home run chain some use.

“Thought it would be a good idea to throw it on, try it out,” Bautista said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “It’s for the hitters, but any time I have a good outing, I’m going to try to wear it when I get to the dugout.”

Odor is fine with that decision. He said the chain can be used as an incentive for pitchers, too, a reward for getting out of a particularly tough spot or striking out the side.

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But the main highlight will come when a batter goes deep, as Mullins did with a two-run shot in the third inning Wednesday. He was the first to receive the chain. Urías followed in the same inning with a two-run homer of his own, so the chain changed hands.

“I’m into it,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I’d love to see it a bunch more.”

After Wednesday’s game, the home run chain hung from a hook in Urías’ locker. It’s his possession until another Oriole proves worthy of donning the gold links.

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