BALTIMORE -- As recently as last season, the light posts that surround Camden Yards were topped with banners that featured the team’s cast of characters -- predominately its All-Stars. The smiling faces of Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, among others, were there to guide you into the ballpark.
It’s a new era for the organization. None of those faces are still around. The player banners have been replaced by generic team-centric messages.
But now, the new wave is starting to round into form, punctuated by breakout staff ace John Means’ astronomical rise and selection as the Orioles’ representative to the 2019 All-Star Game.
The 2019 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be played on Tuesday, July 9, at Progressive Field in Cleveland. It will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde called Means into his office Sunday afternoon to inform him. As such a new face in the big leagues, Means said he has been trying to avoid ever being in Hyde’s office.
“That’s how you get sent down,” he said.
But instead, Hyde had good news to share with the 26-year-old: he was going to be an All-Star.
“I was sitting there and I said, ‘You’re joking, this isn’t that funny,’” Means said.
His hesitation was for good reason. It’s a bit of a surprise for Means to be selected as the team’s representative. Whether it was by social media campaigns, robocalls to homes and megaphones on golf carts down Eutaw Street, players, Orioles coaches and fans alike campaigned endlessly for Trey Mancini to be the Baltimore representative in Cleveland.
“I’m disappointed a lot, to be honest with you,” Hyde said of Mancini, who is slashing .302/.357/.544 with 40 RBIs. “I feel like he deserves to be on the team. If you ask around the league, there’s a lot of people that think he’s an All-Star. That was a tough conversation today also. ... I hope this is motivation for our fans to get out and vote next year and get some of these Orioles in the game who deserve it.”
That’s not to say the Orioles are disappointed its Means by any means.
“For him to accomplish this it’s incredible,” Hyde said. “This guy has been so good.”
“I really think Trey is an All-Star, too,” Means added of Mancini, adding he was the first one to congratulate him of his selection. “He’s everything an All-Star can be, and I wish he could join me going.”
But instead it’s Means, who, at this time last year, was finding his footing with Triple-A Norfolk after starting the year with Double-A. The same Means who made one big league appearance in 2018 as a September call-up, getting tagged for five runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief. The same Means who was one of the last players to make the big league roster out of Spring Training. The same Means who has never made a Minor League All-Star Game in his career.
“Going into Spring Training I was just trying to make a statement to the coaches to hopefully get a call up at some point this year, and I ended up being the last man on the roster,” Means said. “The start of this year [I] just went out there and did my best ... and now we’re here.”
But it’s also the same Means who is now an All-Star, the same Means who’s brought stability to an otherwise wobbly rotation, the same Means whose 2.50 ERA would rank third in the American League if he had enough innings to qualify.
“The minute I start introducing myself, [other All-Stars] are going to be like, ‘Who? Who are you?” he added.
Soon, however, it may be faces like his lining the walkways around Camden Yards.
Will he feel comfortable, then, walking into Hyde’s office?
“Maybe once all my options are up,” he quipped.