I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we dubbed you “Mauer with Power” and “Jesus in Cleats” before you even appeared in a Major League game. We should have let you be Matt Wieters.
You see, O’s fans were looking for anything to consider a diamond in the rough. We drafted you during the tenth season of what would become fourteen in a row of losing baseball. You tore your way through the minor leagues and, by the time you made your debut in 2009, fans saw a potential franchise cornerstone in their new catcher. We decided what your career would be before it even began.
Not many catchers can boast the offensive numbers you can. Your presence behind the plate was intimidating to opposing baserunners for many years. Your soft-spoken but confident attitude shed a positive light on a dark time in Baltimore baseball history. And when the team finally turned the corner and started winning some ballgames, maybe you were a bit overshadowed by guys like Adam Jones and Manny Machado, but I’ll be damned if you didn’t play a major role in our success.
There was that time you hit a walk-off grand slam against the Rays. Nick Markakis was on third with nobody out. All you needed was a fly ball or even a grounder through a hole in the infield. Instead, you hacked at the first pitch and sent it onto the flag court. Dating back to that magical 2012 season, it was the Orioles’ 17th consecutive win in extra innings.
GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld
And then, on your birthday last season, you turned what looked like one of the most frustrating games of the season into an exciting victory. Matt Shoemaker had absolutely shut the Orioles’ offense down for almost eight innings. You came up in the ninth against their closer and blasted an opposite-field, three-run, game-winning homer. That’s not a bad way to celebrate.
There are so many other moments that come to mind but I’m sure you remember them all. From all those runners gunned down at second base to the few times you swiped a bag of your own and left O’s fans laughing in disbelief while sarcastically calling you “Wheels Wieters.” In fact, you stole bases at a higher rate than you allowed them in your career as an Oriole.
I bet not even you saw that coming.
So I want to say thank you. Thank you for your contributions to the Baltimore Orioles organization. You may not have reached the ungodly high expectations set by many but you meant a lot to this team and your value will not be forgotten.
Good luck down at Walgreens. I won’t be cheering for your team, but I will be rooting for you. Just make sure they know that “I” comes before “E.” And when the O’s come to visit in May, as if the catcher behind the plate really matters to a team that doesn’t steal often at all, we’ll be sure to remember that it’s not in our best interest to run on you. Ever.