Adley's role model sees Orioles make homer history

Baltimore twice goes yard back to back, in consecutive innings

June 28th, 2022

SEATTLE -- To understand what makes tick, you have to know his grandfather. Ad Rutschman is royalty in the Pacific Northwest’s sports landscape, a national college football Hall of Famer having coached Linfield College to championships in both football and baseball. For as much as love of sport has been passed down, more so has the character.

Since Adley was drafted first overall out of Oregon State in 2019, Ad has had to watch each of his grandson’s professional games -- including his first 29 in the Majors -- from a distance. Ad, now 90, is “up to date with the modern era,” Adley laughs now, learning texting in order to keep up with his grandson in real time after games as he watches from home in Oregon.

There was no technology necessary at T-Mobile Park on Monday night. Just finger-points, pictures and hugs.

Rutschman, back near his native Oregon, homered in his first professional game in front of grandpa Ad and other extended family as part of a loud 9-2 Orioles win over the Mariners. Rutschman found his grandfather and family seated in Section 154 behind the visiting dugout as he rounded third base in the third inning, a moment that precipitated more prolonged emotions and embraces on the field afterwards.

"Home run or not, just having him in the stands again, it's so extremely important and special for me and my family. Having him be a person I look up to so much, it means the world,” Rutschman said. “Whether I hit a home run or had an 0-for-4 day, struck out four times, they'd still be smiling at the end of the game. That's really what matters."

Rutschman’s homer -- amid a two-hit showing after his first-inning RBI single opened the scoring -- was part of something even more prodigious. It ignited back-to-back homers with Ryan Mountcastle, and after Anthony Santander and Austin Hays did the same an inning later, it was the sixth time in Orioles/Browns franchise history that they have done it twice in one game, but the first time in consecutive innings.

Only one instance has them beat: On May 17, 1967, Andy Etchebarren/Sam Bowens and Boog Powell/Davey Johnson accomplished the feats ... in the same inning.

“We got a lot of confidence right now,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “Our dugout is as good as I've seen it here since I've been here. It's just super positive, guys are really pulling for each other, and a lot of energy in there right now.”

But Rutschman’s blast was the most notable, not just that it came from the current franchise cornerstone, but more so the string of scorching hot baseball it continued. With Monday’s output, Rutschman is hitting .351/385/.784 (1.168 OPS) across his last 10 games with as many homers (three) as singles -- all a far cry from the slow start he got off to.

Comfort has long been tabbed as the blockade for a Rutschman hot streak. His teammates know the kind of game-changing talent he can be, a switch-hitting catcher whose defense and game-calling may outdo his offense. And now they, the baseball world and his grandfather in person are bearing witness.

“There was a big Rutschman section above our dugout,” Hyde said. “You could see a lot of orange.”

Comfort could have been expected on Monday.

Rutschman was nearly home, having grown up just about three hours from T-Mobile Park in Sherwood, Ore., outside Portland. He was drafted by his childhood team in the 40th round in 2016 but did not sign. Some of his earliest baseball memories were at Mariners games, recalling Adrián Beltré homers from the third deck in right field. His first time playing on the field was during a Pitch, Hit and Run competition at 8 years old, which he naturally won. With Oregon State in 2019, he shined in the Seattle Baseball Showcase.

That’s what made Monday as meaningful as it was. The win was important, naturally, but arguably more was seeing some extended family in the stands for the first time as a pro. Oregon State faithful and former teammates made the trip just for Rutschman. Applause each at-bat was palpable for the visiting catcher, emotions akin to his debut in Baltimore on May 21.

“It's just family, friends, the people who support you and who've been with you since day one, have watched you grow up -- there's something special about that,” Rutschman said. “It's kind of tough to explain, but when you experience that feeling, it's unlike anything else in the world. They have your back no matter what.”

Ad is chief in that aspect. As the first half of Adley’s name comes directly from his paternal grandfather, the competitive spirit can be drawn straight up the lineage just the same. Same goes for the attitude it takes to make it possible.

“What comes along with him is just an expectation for greatness, for being a role model for others, for doing things the right way,” Rutschman said. “The way he emulates that and the way he's lived his life, it's something that I aspire to live like.

“And the way he treats people. I think that carries more weight than anything.”