Eyes on future, young O's enjoy exciting ride of '22

October 2nd, 2022

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.

On Tuesday afternoon, , and were among the small contingent of Orioles players who entered the fabled Green Monster at Fenway Park for the first time. They stepped inside the left-field scoreboard -- its walls filled with signatures of thousands of players, coaches, broadcasters and more -- and soaked in the baseball history.

The youngsters left their ink, too. Henderson signed only his first name, scribbling "Gunnar" -- a move that Stowers joked was "big time."

That trio of Hall, Henderson and Stowers had only 60 combined games of big league experience at that time. Yet, they went out and got to play in meaningful contests in the final week of September at vaunted Fenway, and then at Yankee Stadium, which provided an electric fall atmosphere amid Aaron Judge’s chase for the American League single-season home run record.

"Growing up, a lot of primetime games were played in Boston and New York, so to be able to play on these fields is super special," Stowers said. "To get inside the Monster, to see all the names that have been signed there -- you can just really feel the history there. Just knowing that a bunch of the best baseball players in the history of the game have all played on that field, I think that’s pretty cool to say."

Despite its best efforts, Baltimore came up a bit short of making the postseason. Late Friday night, the Orioles were eliminated from playoff contention when Seattle walked off Oakland and secured the third and final AL Wild Card berth. The Orioles won’t endure a sixth straight losing season, but their return to the postseason will have to wait.

Players such as Stowers are confident they won’t be waiting too much longer, though.

"I think we’d be very disappointed if we were not in the playoffs next year," Stowers said. "We set a standard this year that winning is expected."

Some players who are the age of Stowers and Hall (both 24) are still trying to work their way through the Minors. The majority of players at Henderson’s age (21) are doing that. But for these three -- along with 24-year-old catcher and a few others on the O’s roster -- their rookie season featured a legitimate postseason race, almost all the way to the finish.

They weren’t in low-leverage situations as September call-ups just trying to get their feet wet. They were immediately thrust into important matchups on a nightly basis, with the Orioles hoping to get impactful contributions from them.

"The thing that really stood out to me the most was just that every game mattered," said Stowers, who was called up Aug. 19. "Literally my whole time I’ve been here, it’s felt like each game, so much was riding on it. And I think it was good for me as a player to be a part of games like that and get the experience."

So even though Baltimore didn’t get to the postseason, it was successful in another way.

No regular-season stage should feel too daunting for these young players in the years to come. They were introduced to the Major Leagues in a high-stakes fashion. And they just nearly helped take their team deeper into October, too.