Austin Hays had just finished his workout at Double-A Bowie and was preparing to see a movie with his girlfriend Tuesday when he received a call from Baysox manager Gary Kendall, who told him that his theater date would have to wait because he was getting summoned to Camden Yards for his first major league call-up.
Soon enough, Hays — who has enjoyed one of the top 2017 minor league seasons of any player in any organization — was in the Orioles dugout at Camden Yards, his contract selected by the big league club to complete a campaign that began for him at High-A Fredrick and will end in a major league uniform.
“It’s been unbelievable,” said Hays, the Orioles’ third-round draft pick in June 2016, of his quick ascent to the majors. “This first full season has gone by unbelievably fast, and to see where I’m standing right now is just incredible. It’s a dream come true.”
The Orioles seemed content with allowing Hays — who hit .329 with a .958 OPS with 32 homers and 95 RBIs between Frederick and Bowie — to compete in the Eastern League playoffs, which will begin Thursday after being rained out Wednesday, but after outfielder Craig Gentry went down with a broken finger, a more immediate need for outfield help opened for Hays.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he would more likely insert outfielder Joey Rickard into the game as a pinch runner or defensive replacement over Hays because he has more experience, but added that Hays have his opportunity to play.
“We'll see,” Showalter said. “If he'd have been here the last few days, he might have started with the three left-handers. But now, we've got a pretty long stretch. He can hit right-handers, too, at that level. But we'll see. Somewhere along the line, he'll crop up.”
Hays conceded that when he does get that opportunity, there will be nerves.
“For sure,” he said. “I’d definitely say there will be. I think they’ll be some adrenaline and that’s a part of the game. That’s what you want.”
Hays’ first night in a big league uniform was spent on the bench Tuesday night watching one of the Orioles’ most inspiring wins of the year as Manny Machado gave the team a walk-off, 7-6 win with a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning.
“Oh, it’s awesome. It’s a great atmosphere here in the clubhouse and the game yesterday was a great first game to watch from the dugout,” Hays said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Givens honors Puerto Rican heritage on Clemente Day
Orioles reliever Mychal Givens receives surprised looks when he tells others of his Puerto Rican heritage — his great grandparents on his mother’s side were born in Puerto Rico and both grandmothers on the same side are of 100 percent Puerto Rican heritage — but he holds his ancestry close to him every day.
“Everybody thinks I’m kidding about it, but I really take pride in both. My first and last name really don’t show that I’m Puerto Rican, but my full name is Mychal Antonio Givens. That’s why during players weekend, I wore Tony because that was my nickname and pretty much all of my family called me that on my Puerto Rican side. I’ve gone from little Tony to big Tony, and it’s been a [way] to represent not just my African-American side but also my Puerto Rican side, too.”
So on Wednesday, as Roberto Clemente Day was celebrated across baseball, Givens talked about how Clemente — the Puerto Rican legend who was the first Latin American player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame and died at the age of 38 in a plane crash while attempting to deliver relief supplies to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua — has been an inspiration to him despite his death coming 18 years before Givens was born.
During players weekend, Givens wore Clemente’s No. 21 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 on his spikes as a tribute to both and to honor his Latin American and African-American roots.
“When you go to Puerto Rico, he’s a big inspiration for everybody for what he did in his career and what happened to him [dying at a young age], he could have done a lot more,” Givens said. “The hard work and the energy he put out was really an inspiration to me, and you can see it in the highlights and videos.”
Orioles hope Aquino is still in their future
Showalter said he hopes left-hander Jayson Aquino, who was designated for assignment to make 40-man roster space for Hays, clears waivers and remains in the organization.
The club had high hopes for Aquino entering the season as a starter, and he recorded a quality start April 22 against Boston in his first big league outing, holding the Red Sox to two runs on six hits over six innings. He was two outs short of a quality start in his only other big league start this season, but struggled in two relief outings in between. Aquino also struggled to seek consistency as a starter in Triple-A Norfolk, going 3-10 with a 4.24 ERA in 21 starts there.
“Hope he clears and is back with us,” Showalter said. “We'll see. Twenty-four-, 25-year-old guy. Probably not a bullpen guy because of the changeup, he has to go around the order for the changeup to play. I think he's been with what, five clubs? So, there's obviously a precedent there.
“You kind of look at things statistically, too, and see how it's going to present itself to other teams that are looking,” Showalter said. “There's a lot of GMs and teams this time of year, because everybody's having to do very similar stuff. You can, I don't want to say steal a guy, but you can get a guy who could affect you.”
Around the horn
The Orioles were set to open a camp for players who could be options for September call-ups at the team’s minor league complex in Sarasota, but those players are in a holding pattern as the complex was scheduled to be shut down Thursday as Hurricane Irma bears down on Florida. … Bowie utility man Garabez Rosa was named Eastern League Most Valuable Player on Wednesday. Rosa’s .310 batting average, 162 hits and 91 RBIs led the league. He’s the third Bowie player to win the award, joining Calvin Pickering (1998) and Luis Montañez (2008). … Wednesday marked the 22 years since Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games streak by playing in his 2,131st in a row. Showalter said he thinks Ripken’s record of 2,632 straight games is safe. “The guys that are fortunate enough to play 162 games in a season, as soon as they get through, they say, ‘Cal’s record is safe,’ ” Showalter said. “Trust me. That’s amazing.”