Buck Showalter has been back to New York a few times in the past 15 years, as manager of the Texas Rangers and on Old Timer's Day to the old Yankee Stadium as well as a guest for Opening Day at the inaugural season at the new stadium.
"They almost did too good a job of copying the old place, if you didn't look at the suites and everything else, you'd think you're in the same ballpark," Showalter said.
When the Orioles play the Yankees Monday in New York, Showalter will be in the visiting dugout again. And, judging by Showalter's emotions in talking about it Sunday, returning in an Orioles uniform will be different than it was when he was in Texas.
"I look at more initially from a competitive standpoint, being able to see Boston, seeing Tampa, see the Yankees, see Toronto, I know what the barometer is," Showalter said during a lengthy pre-game session with the media. "Privately, I'll have some emotions about that. I grew up there, basically 19 years (as part of the organization.)"
Showalter's ties to the Yankees go back to growing up in Florida and watching the Yankees on television, emulating the batting stances and mannerisms of Mickey Mantle and the rest of his boyhood heroes. He was later a longtime minor-league player and manager before being brought to New York, eventually replacing Stump Merrill as Yankees manager in 1992.
His reign lasted four seasons.
Remarkably, four players that Showalter either managed or watched in spring training are still with the Yankees, the core of a franchise that won five world championships, most recently last year. Showalter has fond memories of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada.
"I'm waiting for them to quit, too," joked Showalter. "I'm going to ask them to when I see them."
Showalter recalled Rivera, coming off elbow surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation, playing catch with Hall of Famer Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry on a back field at the team's spring training complex.
"There was a lot of wondering whether he would come back," Showalter said. "We had this guy on the roster for a year or two and he didn't play. I asked Whitey and Gator (Guidry) what we were waiting on. They said, 'He'll be worth the wait.'"
Showalter met Jeter right after he had been drafted. He came to Yankee Stadium with his parents and sister and "you could tell he was raised right."
Showalter said Yankees pitching coach Tony Cloninger asked him to look at another young pitching prospect in the instructional league.
" Andy was a big pudgy kid in Greensboro, but he (Cloninger) loved him makeup –wise," Showalter said.
At the time Showalter first saw Posada, he was a second baseman.
"I saw him run down the line and I said, 'We need to find another position for him'," Showalter recalled.
Showalter uses those memories when assessing some of the top Orioles prospects, including Xavier Avery, Connor Narron, Mychal Givens and Manny Machado, the team's top draft choice this year.
"You can't cheat the process," Showalter said. "The things we were able to expose them to ( with the Yankees) taking them to the playoffs, a couple of them were active. I remember all the grief we took for putting Mariano on the post-season roster in '95. If I know then what I know now, I would have pitched him more than in just long relief."
Machado impresses Ripken
While Cal Ripken was held captive by the media Sunday afternoon after throwing out the first pitch to honor the 15th anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig's playing streak record, the question had to be asked.
What does the greatest shortstop in franchise history think of the newest shortstop in the franchise?
Machado, the club's first round pick in 2010, played this week for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the Orioles' Short-A affiliate owned and run by Ripken Baseball.
Ripken has watched the 18-year-old play, and has come away impressed. He buys the physical comparisons to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, also once a highly touted high school shortstop out of Miami.
What Ripken also likes is Machado's 6-foot-3, 185 pound frame – from one big shortstop to another. And he likes the kid's offensive potential; Machado had eight hits in his first 22 at-bats for Aberdeen.
"The ball jumped off his bat the other night. I like his size. And it is really clear he has emulated ARod. It's really clear in his mannerisms," Ripken said. "It's probably unfair to make the comparisons that he's an ARod type of player. But I liked his size, I liked his strength. He made a couple plays in the field really easy and I liked the way his ball jumped off his bat. He's definitely got some good size to him."
Around the horn
Centerfielder Adam Jones, who has been nursing a sore left shoulder, didn't play for the ninth time in the last 11 games…Former Orioles relief pitcher Dick Hall was at Sunday's game and was congratulated on the big board for his upcoming 80th birthday on Sept. 27….Relief pitcher Koji Uehara has a 1.50 ERA in his last 21 appearances and has retired the first batter he faced in 27 of 30 games…The Orioles need to go 12-13 in their remaining 25 games to avoid their third 100-loss season in franchise history.