In Adam Jones, the Baltimore Orioles have the best centerfielder in America. Now some of you are going to say that’s incorrect, or you’ll disagree. And that’s okay. But the fact is that Jones is the starting centerfielder for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Out of every centerfielder in baseball, he was chosen.
And in Jones, Team USA has found a leader much in the same way that the Orioles did as soon as he came to Baltimore. Along with his American teammates, Jones will play in the semi-finals of the WBC on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium against Japan. If the US wins that game, they’ll advance to the final game on Wednesday night.
Jones has been a part of several very memorable moments thus far in the WBC, mostly at the plate. However in last night’s 6-3 win over the Dominican Republic, he made a play for the ages. If you haven’t already seen it, click here.
Ironically, the man on the other side of this play is also an Oriole: Manny Machado. He sent a deep shot to right centerfield…any other centerfielder, and it’s probably a home run. However somehow, Jones ran it down and made a catch that may well be long remembered in international baseball circles. He climbed the wall and brought a sure home run back into the ballpark.
However the majesty and ambiance of the moment didn’t end there. As he saw what happened while rounding the bases, Machado paused and raised his batting helmet in the air towards his Orioles teammate in recognition for what he had done, before heading back to his team’s dugout. While it was and always will be “Jones’ moment,” the fact that it was Machado on the other end and the fact that he doffed his cap towards his teammate and friend made it a uniquely “Baltimore moment” as well.
What we saw in that moment was a guy hustling faster perhaps than he had ever hustled before to get to the ball. Then using the wall as his support, he lept skyward and brought it back into the ballpark, negating a home run. And then on the flip side, we see the guy on the other end of that great play recognizing it – and recognizing that it was his (Orioles’) teammate who made it.
“The Oriole Way” has always been a fundamental approach to the game. But in the same tradition as “Dodger Blue,” it’s also a level of par in terms of how the game is played and the respect that it should be shown. Part of that of course is respecting one’s opponents. Too often we’re seeing sports figures who literally have only respect for one thing besides money: themselves.
And we see it all over; the NFL, NBA, and even in events such as cage fighting (which I don’t consider a sport). Taunting isn’t just accepted, it’s encouraged. And yes, we’ve seen it far too often in baseball of late as well; Jose Bautista‘s bat flip in the 2015 MLB playoffs ranks up there as a prime example. While I do agree that the name of the game is to win, all of us involved in baseball and in sports (players, coaches, writers, and fans) owe it to the very institution of the game to treat it right. And respect for the opponent has always been a big part of baseball.
So in that one moment we saw everything that The Oriole Way is about. And you see the sportsmanship that these guys have been taught, namely from Buck Showalter. As opposed to wallowing in the fact that he simply made a fly ball out, Machado paid homage to his teammate. And Jones deserved every bit of it by the way he hustled to the ball and never gave up.
But this goes deeper than just symbolizing The Oriole Way. It goes deeper than Orioles fans being proud of how their guys have performed in the WBC. It’s not just “The Oriole Way;” it’s truly “The American Way.”