Shortly after learning he would represent the Orioles in the 2019 All-Star Game, left-hander John Means joked that he would be so out of place among the American League’s collection of talent that other players would be more likely to assume he was a clubhouse worker than a teammate.
Means’ rise from obscurity to All-Star came quickly, so there’s plenty about the 26-year-rookie that remains unknown. Here are some stories from Means and those closest to him to reflect just who the Orioles’ All-Star is.
He grew about a foot during high school
Means started high school at 5 feet 4 and 145 pounds, a far cry from all 6-3 and 230 pounds of him now. Most of that growth happened before his junior year of high school, when he shot up about 6 inches and kept going from there.
That made for one of his parents’ favorite stories. His mom, Jill, regularly did laundry for Means and his little brother, Jake, but with her out of town for work, Means ended up with Jake’s small baseball pants in his bag rather than his large pair.
Means didn’t realize the mix-up until he had to get ready for practice that afternoon. He wasn’t interested in missing practice because of a wardrobe malfunction, so he squeezed into the pants and endured a fairly uncomfortable workout.
He committed to pitching because he couldn’t run
That growth spurt meant Means was still learning his body when he started his college career at Fort Scott Community College.
Despite being productive as both a hitter and pitcher at Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas, his left-handedness and lanky, unathletic frame made an easy decision for Fort Scott coach John Hill III.
“He saw me run, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re a pitcher,’ ” Means said. “I was just all legs and arms flailing.”
It was clearly the right choice.
He once helped put on a kindergarten Christmas musical
Means spent the 2016-17 offseason as a substitute teacher in what he thought would be an easy way to pay for rent. He thought it was easier still that his first assignment was an elementary school music class, despite lacking a musical background.
He went in thinking he would be able to put a musical on TV and leave it at that, but instead, he got to watch one live. The children were practicing for their Christmas musical, and Means had to sing along as they repeatedly rehearsed five songs. The room lacked chairs, leaving Means with no manner of controlling the untethered 5-year-olds.
“I don’t exactly have a very soft voice like most kindergarten teachers,” Means said. “I didn’t know how to handle it. If I started yelling, I don’t think it would go over too well in my review.”
He and his fiancee recently met their favorite celebrity
Comedian Joe Rogan recently performed in Baltimore, and Means went to the show with his fiancee, Caroline Stanley. Stanley referred to Rogan as their “pop-culture hero,” and the two of them got to meet and take a picture with him afterward.
She gets a good laugh out of comparing this season with the past ones as Means grinded through the minors.
“Just something as simple as having AC in the apartment is such a luxury,” Stanley said. “It’s just been the wackiest year.”
His mom can’t watch his starts
Jill usually has to go for a walk whenever Means pitches. His father, Alan, isn’t quite as superstitious, but she records the games and watches later, unable to handle watching him pitch on live television.
“I think it's a mom thing where you can't help them,” she said.
She’ll be locked in her seat Tuesday in Cleveland with her son in the All-Star Game.