Shelton reflects on Camden trip, meeting Robinson

August 7th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- No offense to any current Pirate, but there will always be a special place in Derek Shelton’s heart for Robert Andino.

The Pirates’ manager never played with or coached Andino, and he was well beyond his Oriole boyhood fandom years by 2011, the year Andino became a cult hero in Baltimore. But Shelton was on the coaching staff of the 2011 Rays, who benefited from Andino’s famous game-winning hit against the Red Sox on what remains one of the most thrilling nights in baseball history. His sinking liner found grass, and last-place Baltimore eliminated Boston just as Tampa Bay was capping its own epic comeback to sneak into the playoffs on the season’s final day.

For Shelton at the time, it was the perfect confluence of circumstances.

“I grew up an Orioles fan,” Shelton said before Pittsburgh’s 6-3 loss on Saturday at Oriole Park, in which Oneil Cruz homered and Ke'Bryan Hayes plated another run. “[Cal] Ripken [Jr.] was my favorite player. We [the Twins, who he coached with in 2019] played here a few years ago, and he sat over there. I think I paid more attention to him during the game than I did to the game.”

All of this and more is why Shelton was thrilled the Pirates’ rare trip to Baltimore fell on this weekend, when the Orioles rolled out the orange carpet to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Camden Yards. The bit of scheduling luck gave Shelton a front-row seat as the club welcomed one of its largest crowds of the year and honored the storied ballpark with a reunion-themed pregame ceremony Saturday afternoon.

Before this weekend, the Pirates had only traveled to Baltimore four times during the regular season in franchise history, and last in 2017. They have now lost nine consecutive games at Oriole Park, dating back to 2012.

Shelton has always relished trips to Camden Yards. He recalled visiting the city with a friend in college, scaling the Eutaw Street fence just to get a glimpse, even though the Orioles were on the road. This was the early ‘90s, when the Orioles' new downtown jewel of a ballpark (opened in '92) was a revelation. By that point, Shelton had spent his childhood rooting for the team from afar. He came by his fandom honestly, after his father, Ron, played in the Baltimore system from 1967-’71.

Then, as a professional, Shelton grew familiar with Camden's confines, coaching in the American League East with the Rays and Blue Jays from 2009-’17.

“I remember when the Hilton wasn’t out there [beyond the left-field wall],” Shelton said. “I’m old -- I’ve seen the whole transformation of this ballpark.”

Ripken wasn’t in attendance Saturday to steal Shelton’s attention, but Andino was. And Shelton jumped at the chance to meet with another living legend: Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, who delivered a closed-door speech to the Orioles' clubhouse as part of his first appearance at the park in years.

Shelton said he met Robinson once before, back in 1993 as a 21-year-old. It remains a cherished memory.

“But now that I'm a borderline adult, it’s very exciting,” Shelton said, upon learning Robinson was in attendance. “It would be cool because like I said, I grew up an Orioles fan. My dad played in this organization. So if it works, it'd be kind of sick.”

Shelton and Robinson met and posed for a photo Saturday afternoon, not long before Shelton returned to the Pirates clubhouse and relayed a message to his own sweet-gloved third baseman.

“It was good, it was cool,” Shelton said. “To be able to meet him 30 years later was a really, really cool thing. I think any time you can, you honor your legends. I told [Ke’Bryan Hayes] there was a really good third baseman in the house today, along with him.”