Orioles cherish All-Star Game experiences

July 15th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- stood in front of his locker inside the home clubhouse at Camden Yards on Friday afternoon and couldn’t stop smiling as he shared with the media tales from his trip to Seattle for All-Star Game festivities earlier this week. It was everything the 29-year-old rookie right-hander had hoped.

He cheered on Orioles teammate Adley Rutschman in Monday night’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby. He walked the red carpet on Tuesday, along with Rutschman and fellow Baltimore All-Stars Austin Hays and . They were surrounded by all of baseball’s top stars.

The best part for Cano came when he got to meet Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, arguably the current face of the sport. Cano asked Ohtani for an autographed ball, and Ohtani obliged, giving Cano a memento that he’ll be keeping on a shelf in his home for a long time.

Cano’s first All-Star experience was one he cherished and will never forget.

“I think it’s the best moment that baseball has ever given me,” Cano said through O’s team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “It was just a really great experience overall, and I really tried to enjoy it as much as possible.”

While in the national spotlight, Cano got the opportunity to showcase his electric arsenal, featuring overpowering stuff that he used to record a 1.48 ERA in 37 appearances during the first half.

Cano pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the American League in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic. It began with him striking out both the Braves’ Matt Olson and the Phillies’ Nick Castellanos. Then, after the National League put runners on the corners with two outs, Cano got the Braves’ Ozzie Albies to ground out to second base to escape the jam.

“It really reminded me of when I was pitching in Cuba -- just pitching relaxed, having a lot of fun out there,” Cano said. “I told myself, ‘Regardless of the outcome, whether it’s good or bad, I’m just going to go out there and have fun and enjoy it.’”

At that time, the AL had a one-run lead. If the Junior Circuit had remained on top, Cano would have been the winning pitcher. That ended up not being the case, though, as Bautista gave up a go-ahead two-run homer to the Rockies’ Elias Díaz, which lifted the NL to a 3-2 victory.

Although Bautista’s All-Star Week ended on a tough note, it didn’t ruin the experience for the 28-year-old Baltimore closer.

“There were some incredible days, and those are days and events that I dreamt of as a kid, that I saw as a kid,” Bautista said via Quinones. “They superseded my expectations in every way.”

The Orioles were better represented in Seattle than they had been at other All-Star Games in recent years. Bautista, Cano, Hays (who started in center field for the AL) and Rutschman were all first-time All-Stars, and it was the first time Baltimore had multiple players at the event since 2016, when it sent five there.

As manager Brandon Hyde watched the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game on TV, he enjoyed getting to see his players -- and his team -- put on display for baseball fans everywhere.

“I was really proud that they represented us so well,” Hyde said. “What a great experience they all had, and they loved every minute of it. It was cool to watch our guys in a national spotlight, and for fans around the world to see them was awesome.”