NEWS

‘This is the expectation for years to come’ – The Denver Post



It was only 11 days ago that the Orioles went through the same procedure.

They swapped out sweaty jerseys for orange T-shirts after an historic accomplishment, wrapped green-banded goggles around their heads and partied in the tarp-covered clubhouse, soaking one another in beer and champagne.

That Sunday evening party came on the heels of an exhilarating, postseason-berth-clinching win in 11 innings over their fellow American League East power, the Tampa Bay Rays. This one — a 2-0 victory Thursday night over the last-place Boston Red Sox that crowned the Orioles division champs for the first time since 2014, on a night when the club reached a 30-year lease agreement to stay at Camden Yards — felt different.

It still had the bones of a raucous celebration.

Reliever Shintaro Fujinami still flashed a wide-eyed smile complemented by a signature, “Ahhh,” sticking his tongue out anytime there was a camera in his face. Rookie starting pitcher Grayson Rodriguez still cracked a pair of beers over the heads of teammates again and again. All-Star outfielder Austin Hays draped a division champs flag over his shoulders.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and Orioles CEO and Chairman John Angelos were of course doused in beer.

And the homer hose found its way into the crowd, even if only for a short time.

Brandon Hyde again commenced the postgame celebration with a brief toast. Players crowded around the back half of the clubhouse as the fifth-year manager called for Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” to be turned down and requested players hoist a drink.

“Nobody gave us a chance at the start of this year,” Hyde said. “Nobody. That’s 100 wins right there. That’s a hundred wins in the first step. We just won the AL East. Let’s go!”

The air quickly filled with spraying bottles and pure elation to the tune of “Love Tonight” from David Guetta and ASAP Rocky’s “Wild for the Night.” Players quickly shuffled toward veteran second baseman Adam Frazier, who passed out cigars to each of his teammates.

While the first clubhouse celebration of the season — and for many of the young players, ever — was a champagne- and beer-soaked muddle, this felt more like a calmer, cigar-lit soiree. Thursday had its share of wild moments, but perhaps with an eye toward more weighty celebrations. After all, the top-seeded Orioles are just seven wins away from reaching their first World Series since they won it in 1983.

“Now,” rookie shortstop Gunnar Henderson said, with champagne dripping between his eyes, “this is the expectation for years to come.”

The Orioles’ second celebration swapped out $18 bottles of Bouvet Signature Brut champagne for $100 bottles of bronze-plated Beau Joie Brut. Cheaper bottles of Bouvet were there too, this time covered with custom 2023 Divisional Champs decals.

A playoff-clinching celebration last week was cause for bottomless Budweiser. The divisional champs had that too, with midseason trade acquisition Jack Flaherty making beer runs as the scene mellowed. But the group appeared more eager to share in camaraderie infused by cigar smoke.

“I mean, the first one obviously getting to the playoffs is the ultimate goal, but in the back of our minds, we knew this was the celebration we wanted,” said catcher James McCann, who kicked off the celebration with pitcher Tyler Wells after the final out Thursday. “We wanted to win the East, and here we are, winning the East, getting that [wild-card-round] bye. This group deserves it. I can’t say enough good things about every single individual that’s walked through the doors of this clubhouse.”

As reporters and cameras cleared out, players sat atop tables sharing beers and smoking cigars like longtime pals. They’ve been there, in that tarp-filled room before. But once — now twice — wasn’t enough. They’re hoping to do it three more times.

“This team’s amazing, man,” said reliever Jacob Webb, one of many castoffs who found a home in Baltimore this season. “What a special place to be and a special team to be a part of. I think this team got that grit, that fight every night. It’s gonna be fun to watch us go through this whole experience. We’ve definitely got the team to do it.”

Baltimore Sun reporters Jacob Calvin Meyer and Nathan Ruiz contributed to this article.

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