The Jackson Holliday era has begun for Baltimore

April 10th, 2024

BOSTON -- No 20-year-old has likely looked this comfortable fielding questions from a large throng of media members. Then again, most 20-year-olds aren’t , who the Orioles knew was ready to handle this moment, as well as the big leagues.

The Holliday era has arrived for Baltimore, who called up MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect from Triple-A Norfolk prior to Wednesday’s game at Boston. He was immediately inserted into the O’s lineup, starting at second base and batting ninth against Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford.

A little more than two hours before first pitch, was Holliday feeling nervous?

“Nervous? I mean, a little bit,” Holliday said, not showing it while leaning back and talking to reporters in the third-base dugout at Fenway Park. “Not too bad. Not as nervous as I thought I would be. I’m more excited.”

The Major Leagues had been the lifelong goal for Holliday, whose dad, Matt, was a seven-time All-Star during a 15-year big league career as an outfielder. Jackson grew up around MLB clubhouses and fields, including the one where he made his debut Wednesday.

Holliday, born on Dec. 4, 2003, was here in Boston when Matt’s Rockies lost in the World Series in ‘07, then again when his Cardinals fell in the ‘13 Fall Classic. As a youngster, Jackson got the opportunity to sign the inside walls of the Green Monster in left field, a tradition many ballplayers don’t get to experience until they reach the big leagues themselves.

“I know my dad lost a few World Series here, but other than that, I’ve got good memories,” Holliday said.

Holliday learned Tuesday night he’d soon be getting the opportunity to make big league memories of his own. After Triple-A Norfolk’s 5-2 loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Tides manager Buck Britton pulled Holliday into his office and broke the news that the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick would be heading to The Show.

From there, Holliday returned to his apartment, packed up and headed for Richmond, Va., arriving there around 1:30 a.m. ET. Three hours of sleep later, he was back on the road. And by 6 a.m., he was on a flight headed toward the Majors.

“It’s been quite a day,” Holliday said. “But I wouldn’t change it for a second.”

A left-handed hitter, Holliday played only 18 games at Triple-A in 2023, when he climbed all four full-season Minor League affiliates. He had a chance to make the O’s big league roster out of Spring Training, but they optioned him two days before the end of camp, with general manager Mike Elias stating the club wanted Holliday to get more reps at second base and additional experience against high-level left-handed pitching.

Holliday was slashing .333/.482/.595 with two home runs through 10 Triple-A games in 2024.

“Obviously, I was a little disappointed because my goal was to make the team out of camp, but I understood why, and I knew that I had a job to do,” Holliday said. “And I was able to do that, and now I’m here. Definitely excited to be here and be with this team.”

With Holliday playing a lot of second and Gunnar Henderson locked in at shortstop, Jordan Westburg will likely be getting more time at third. Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo will be shifted into bench roles.

That’s how the Orioles’ lineup looked Wednesday, and it’s also how manager Brandon Hyde will likely continue to deploy his infielders for the time being.

“I think how it looks tonight is probably going to be how we're going to go for a while, and a majority of nights,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Some young players show up in the big leagues and try to do too much. It results in a lack of production that can result in them getting sent back down to the Minors. Holliday will do his best to ensure that doesn’t happen. His relaxed nature and poise may have him set up for a successful career, following in his father’s footsteps.

“After the first pitch, your first groundout or however it is, I think I’ll be fine. I’m just going to try to hit the fastball right back where it came from and go from there,” Holliday said. “It’s different. It’s a lot. And I feel like I’ve been born to handle that and to be here and to play baseball for a long time.”

Holliday’s first goal has already been accomplished. On the day he got drafted by the Orioles on July 17, 2022, he said during an MLB Network interview he’d like to reach the big leagues within two years.

Sure enough, here he already is.

“That was my goal,” Holliday said. “And if you give yourself goals, sometimes, you reach them every now and then.”