Orioles manager Buck Showalter sensed some nervousness in record-setting Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps as he lingered around the Orioles batting cage.
Phelps, a Baltimore-area native, clutched a bat and wore an orange Orioles jersey with No. 18 on the back – for the record number of Olympic gold medals Phelps has won as a world-class swimmer.
The 27-year-old Phelps joined the Orioles before Thursday's intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium, taking batting practice with the team. Phelps told Showalter he hasn’t played baseball since he was 10 or 12. Showalter answered that he hasn’t been in the pool for 30 years but he’s sure he wasn’t going to sink to the bottom.
Phelps was in town at a Laurel Oak Country Club filming an episode of the new Golf Channel show, “The Haney Project,” in which renowned golf swing coach Hank Haney tutors Phelps.
Phelps took five rounds in the batting cage with varying degrees of success and said he was a little out of breath after the final round. Orioles hitting coach Jim Presley gave him some tips, as did first base coach Wayne Kirby, who told Phelps to “use your lower half. This ain’t no breaststroke.”
Phelps did hit his share of line drives into the outfield at Ed Smith Stadium.
“It’s my first time taking BP, so it was a cool experience, being able to do that with these guys and especially after a remarkable season and hopefully they have a good one coming up,” Phelps said. “These guys are just normal guys, they are funny guys, they are just out here having fun and I enjoyed being around them.
“Everyone was sitting here saying what I should be doing so I just tried to listen to all of them a little bit. I wanted to hit one out, but we caught a couple that were close.”
Phelps said he wasn’t able to attend an Orioles game during last year’s playoff season because he was “a little busy” winning four gold medals and two silvers in the London summer Olympics, but said he’d be there for Opening Day in April.
“It’s been a good year,” Phelps said. “Obviously the Orioles making the playoffs for the first time in a long time, and then with the Ravens bringing back the [Super Bowl] ring. Buck was saying, they all set the bar high, so obviously looking for an exciting season for the guys.”
Haney was also there, also taking swings and giving Orioles outfielder Adam Jones some tips on his golf swing.
Kirby might have had the best question for the former Olympian, asking him if he ever peed in the pool during the Olympics.
“Always,” Phelps deadpanned.
No word on whether Phelps finished the session with a Subway sub.