Inside the game room of Robinson Chirinos’ house, there’s a wall the Orioles catcher can stare at with wonder. With a white wooden border and painted black backdrop, the jerseys from some of Chirinos’ favorite major league players — from Manny Machado to Bartolo Colón — hang.
On each is a personalized message, marker on lettering, dedicating the jersey to Chirinos.
He has hundreds of them, with more added to his collection each week. Earlier this month at Camden Yards, when Miguel Cabrera visited with the Detroit Tigers, Chirinos was ready with a Cabrera jersey to have signed. It then hung in his locker after Cabrera wrote out all his accomplishments: 3,000 hit club, 600 double club, 500 home run club. Almost out of room, Cabrera fit his autograph on the numbering.
The next day, a jersey from Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. arrived in the mail. Chirinos added Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to his collection on Baltimore’s trip to Toronto this month. And when the Orioles travel to New York to face the Yankees on Friday, Chirinos plans to add an Aaron Judge jersey to his collection, with an inscription from the MVP candidate who can break the American League single-season home run record with one more mighty swing.
Chirinos loves playing baseball. But more than anything, he loves the sport beyond his role as a player. He’s a fan — one with an up-close view — and with each autograph on a jersey, there’s another memory from a dream career.
“My wife, she’s crazy because I hang baseball jerseys everywhere around the house,” Chirinos said. “She’s like, ‘Stop!’”
But right now, Chirinos doesn’t feel a need to stop. Instead, he might only ramp up his rapid pace of collecting.
Chirinos wants to play one more season. His body still feels good enough, he says, to produce at the major league level, so he holds out hope for one last big league contract. If the 38-year-old doesn’t get it, though — if this really is the end for a player who recently hit 10 years of service time, the benchmark to receive a full pension — he can walk into his house and see the reminders of what he accomplished hanging on the walls.
And while Chirinos’ older son has experienced much of Chirinos’ major league career, his 4-year-old son hasn’t. The keepsakes hanging around the house are as much for him as they are for Chirinos.
“One day, he’s gonna be asking me questions like, ‘Dad, who is this guy?’” Chirinos said. “It’s going to be a good time to talk about baseball, how I did it and why. I know they’re going to appreciate all that they have in the house.”
It’s a practice Chirinos began about eight years ago. He doesn’t frame all the jerseys; the expense that would take is too high. He saves special jerseys for those frames, such as Iván Rodríguez, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and one of his own. The rest are scattered around his house on hangers or hanging from the wall in the game room, including several from his former Houston Astros teammates.
When Chirinos arrives at a visiting ballpark, he thinks of which players he admires most on the other team. They don’t always have to be famous players as long as he likes the way they play the game. He buys a jersey or asks clubhouse manager Fred Tyler to snag one, then sends it across the way to the opposing clubhouse.
And when that player comes up to bat, Chirinos makes sure to thank each player who signed a jersey for him.
In the corner of the clubhouse in Camden Yards, Chirinos showed off more than his jerseys. He pulled out a ticket from the game Cabrera recorded his 3,000th hit; Cabrera signed it for Chirinos. He has boxes of baseball cards at his house, and in his locker stood a bat signed by Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena.
“What I see in the past, guys try to get bigger names, like guys about to retire,” Chirinos said. “Like Miggy, we have maybe 10 jerseys here. So everybody wants Miggy. In the past, that’s what I saw, when a guy was about to retire. Or maybe his favorite player and he wants one. But not many guys have from what I see in the clubhouse an interest to collect baseball stuff. In my case, I love to do it.”
Before the end of the season, when each member of the Orioles will pack up their belongings and head their separate ways — some for good — Chirinos wants to commemorate his time with Baltimore. He already has a bat from catcher Adley Rutschman, but he’ll ask for a set of his catching gear and a jersey, too.
Chirinos plans to swap jerseys with several of his other teammates, such as Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander.
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He doesn’t know if this is the end.
“We’ll see what God has in store for me,” Chirinos said.
But if this is his last go-around in the majors, he’ll leave with a wall full of collectibles, lasting memories for him and his sons.
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