Hays' dad grabs HR, gives it to Hays' son

'Dad strength' powers ball that ends up with infant son

March 3rd, 2021

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Need further evidence baseball is a father-son game? Look no further than Wednesday’s 8-1 Orioles win over the Braves at CoolToday Park.

Providing the bulk of the offense was O’s outfielder , who hit his first home run of Grapefruit League play with a two-run shot off Tucker Davidson. It was an especially important moment for Hays, because it came in his first game playing in front of his infant son, Levi, who was born this winter.

But there is more. Hays’ family was separated during the game due to new COVID-19 ballpark regulations in effect this spring, with Levi and Hays’ wife, Samantha, sitting behind home plate and Hays’ father, Chuck, watching from the right-field stands. Somehow, Chuck ended up with Hays’ home run ball -- Hays isn’t quite sure how -- and with the help of fire and rescue personnel, he delivered the ball to his grandson during the game.

“His first game, he gets the home run ball,” Hays said. “Maybe ‘dad strength’ is a thing, because the first game he comes to, I hit a homer. Hopefully that happens a lot this year.”

If it does, it’ll mean Hays separated himself amid the Orioles’ crowded outfield competition, which is already heating up. Their other offense Wednesday came courtesy of DJ Stewart’s solo homer, his second in as many Grapefruit League games, off Carl Edwards Jr. in the fourth inning. With Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle as the projected starters in right and left field, respectively, Stewart and Hays are battling for reps at fourth outfielder and at-bats at designated hitter, with Hays also pushing Cedric Mullins for the center-field job.

“We have quite a few guys swinging the bat very well,” O’s manager Brandon Hyde said. “It's nice to have so much talent in our outfield, depth wise, with guys who can play multiple positions. We have some guys swinging the bat right now, and it’s good to see.”

More from the game
Back in Orioles camp on a Minor League deal, Wade LeBlanc completed two scoreless innings Wednesday in his spring debut. The veteran lefty struck out two and allowed one hit as he looks to reclaim a rotation job after his 2020 season ended prematurely due to a left elbow injury. LeBlanc, 36, went 1-0 with an 8.06 ERA across six starts last year for Baltimore.

“After you put up an 8 ERA, I think there is a lot to prove,” LeBlanc said. “We’re going to go out there, try to stay healthy and pump some strikes in there.”

Youth rising
The O’s also got run-scoring hits Wednesday from prospects Adley Rutschman and Jahmai Jones, with Rutschman’s seventh-inning RBI double marking his first hit of the spring. Rutschman, the organization’s top prospect and the No. 2 prospect in baseball, also struck out twice, once from each side of the plate.

Minor League staff finalized
Minor League contraction didn’t do much to alter the Orioles’ Minor League staff, which was announced Wednesday and featured few changes from the 2020 season. The most notable were in-house replacements for longtime instructors Sean Berry and Butch Davis, who weren't retained after last season.

Tim Gibbons moves from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk to replace Berry at hitting coach, while Jeff Kunkel goes from Class A Delmarva to Bowie in Davis’ place at fundamentals coach. New hire Malcom Holland replaces Eli Steinfield as Norfolk’s development coach, and Ryan Fuller moves from Delmarva to Bowie in Gibbons' place.

The Orioles lost their former Class A Advanced affiliate Frederick in contraction; former Keys manager Kyle Moore, pitching coach Josh Conway and hitting coach Tom Eller will switch to the O’s new affiliate in Aberdeen. The core of Aberdeen’s former staff -- manager Kevin Bradshaw, pitching coach Joe Maumacher, hitting coach Anthony Villa and fundamentals coach Branden Becker -- is moving to coach the organization’s two Florida Complex League teams.

In the manager’s seat, Gary Kendall, Buck Britton and Dave Anderson return at Norfolk, Bowie and Delmarva, Moore goes to Aberdeen, Bradshaw joins Alan Mills in the Florida Complex League, while Chris Madera and Elvis Morel return to the Dominican Summer League.

Another family connection
It had been a week of father-son moments, even before Hays homered. On Tuesday, O’s prospect Tyler Nevin and his father, Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin, reunited at home plate to exchange lineup cards. On Wednesday, O’s third-base coach Tony Mansolino and his father, Braves Minor League field coordinator Doug Mansolino, did the same.

Doug is a longtime Minor League instructor who has been with Atlanta since 2019; Tony is in his first year with the Orioles after more than a decade coaching in Cleveland’s system.

Up next
Trey Mancini should be back in the Orioles’ lineup when they return home Thursday to play the Red Sox, with first pitch slated for 1:05 p.m. ET from Ed Smith Stadium. Young righty Dean Kremer makes his Grapefruit League debut in the game, opposite Boston righty Matt Andriese.