Despite batting 0-for-5, Orioles No. 1 draft pick Adley Rutschman’s arrival in Aberdeen for a 5-2 win over the Hudson Valley Renegades on Saturday lived up to the hype, according to IronBirds manager Kevin Bradshaw.
“It was a fun game to be a part of,” Rutschman said. “Obviously didn’t get any hits today, didn’t get the [at-bats] I wanted, but that’s part of baseball.”
“We’d been planning on it for a while,” Bradshaw said before Rutschman’s debut. “Having Mr. Rutschman come in here, it’s always a big drill, and all the players are thrilled to have him, and as a coaching staff, we’re thrilled to see [him]. ... We’ve heard great things about him."
Rutschman, 21, spent time in Sarasota, Fla., recovering from mononucleosis and getting his feet wet with his first professional baseball experience in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. While he was there, he hit a home run in his pro debut and batted .214 with two walks in five games. Now that he’s healthy, he’s set to play in Maryland for the first time, taking his first step up the minor league ladder.
Originally, Rutschman was supposed to catch in his first game with the IronBirds, but he was switched to designated hitter because he caught the night before with the GCL Orioles. The move works with how Bradshaw likes to transition players.
“I usually try, when someone new gets here, to DH him first just to try to get his feet wet,” Bradshaw said.
Rutschman said he’s just excited to be playing baseball again, no matter the position.
“I’m really excited to get going,” Rutschman said.
The team is excited to see him play as well, said Bradshaw, and fans showed up for their first glimpse of the 2019 No. 1 overall draft pick.
As the lineups were announced, each player got a smattering of applause until “Adley Rutschman” was called out. Fans got to their feet, clapped their hands and shook their “Cal Bells” in a round of applause that matched the noise at Camden Yards.
“It was exhilarating,” Rutschman said. “I was kind of just enjoying it... soaking in every second of it.”
With all the hype and expectations, it’s important for Rutschman to not let his excitement get out of hand, his father Randy said. Randy and his wife Carol flew to Baltimore from Oregon to see their son’s IronBirds debut. His sister, Josie, had to stay at home, but she FaceTimed him before the game, telling him he had to hit a home run. But no matter how he did, Randy said Josie is his fan no matter what.
“I think he’s kind of ready for [this because] he went through the season with high expectations,” Randy said. “But I think there’s a tendency to try to amp up and do too much. He just needs to be himself.”
Through all the attention Rutschman received in his last season at Oregon State, he continuously took time to remind himself who he was, his father said. Often, he gave himself breaks through comedic relief, according to Randy.
“He loves to laugh,” Randy said. His humor is something people might miss when getting to know him, his sister Josie said when Rutschman signed with the Orioles for a major league-record $8.1 million signing bonus.
Rutschman said his transition to the IronBirds is a bit easier because he knows some of the players on the team, and that everyone’s been welcoming, not seeming to begrudge him for the attention he draws. Even the two Stanford players “are good guys,” Rutschman said with a laugh.
The fans lent their encouragement every time Rutschman went up to bat.
Although he went hitless, fans continued cheering and yelling out, “You’ve got this, Adley.”
Rutschman hit a popout to left in his first at-bat. He struck out on three pitches in his second at-bat, and grounded out to the shortstop in his third.
His best at-bat was his fourth, when he worked the count to 3-2 before grounding into a foreceout to short.
In his final at-bat, he grounded out to second.
Now that he’s gotten through his first game, he said he’s looking forward to just getting in the swing of things. But that doesn’t mean he’s glad it’s over with.
“You only get to go through this experience once, so I’m just trying to enjoy it right now,” Rutschman said.