MESA, Ariz. -- “Let’s go get a ring!”
Orioles prospect Greg Cullen had one thing on his mind as he was swarmed by his teammates at home plate following his walk-off home run on Friday to give the Mesa Solar Sox a 4-3 win over the Scottsdale Scorpions at Sloan Park.
After finding himself down 0-2 in a left-on-left matchup, Cullen worked the count full. He was focused on hitting the left-center gap.
“That was kind of my approach the whole at-bat, but I took two fastballs right down the middle,” Cullen said. “I guess I couldn’t miss that one.”
Cullen’s homer was the stuff that backyard dreams are made of -- full count, bottom of the final inning, a chance to win the game with one swing. While some may sell out for power in that spot, the former Niagara University star took a different approach.
“Really, I was just trying to get on base, because this whole lineup, we’ve been doing it the whole year,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking homer, but it ended up turning into a homer.”
Injuries set Cullen back in 2021, limiting the second baseman to 38 regular-season games over three levels: Double-A Bowie, Low-A Delmarva and the Florida Complex League Orioles. He batted .259 but he was able to notch a .429 on-base percentage while walking more times (31) than he struck out (30).
Despite being outside the Orioles’ Top 30 prospect rankings, Cullen finds himself playing alongside the game’s youngest rising stars.
“It’s top notch,” said Cullen on the AFL’s competition level. “For me, it kind of reaffirms that I can play at any level. It just makes me better as a player. It’s been a fantastic experience.”
Cullen, the 15th-round pick of the Braves in the 2018 Draft, concludes the Fall League regular season with the fourth-highest OPS (.935) on a team littered with offensive firepower.
“I’m just so happy to be here. I’ve enjoyed every second,” Cullen said. “The guys in this dugout, they’re going to be friends for life. It’s bigger than baseball at that point.
“We’ve been having fun this whole month. We keep calling ourselves ‘America’s Team.' We’re just going to go have fun tomorrow and whatever happens, happens. We’ve just been having a blast. Hopefully we get that ring tomorrow.”
Mesa is slated to play Surprise in the title game Saturday at 7 p.m. ET (5 p.m. MT) on MLB Network, streaming on MLB.com and in the MLB app.