As fans, one of the easiest things to do is overlook the person that wears the uniform.
Production matters. Coming through with runners in scoring position matters. Recording a high-leverage strikeout in a close game matters. Hitting walk-off home runs matters. Though, sometimes, the obsession of adding a plus in the win column overpowers the simple fact that men play baseball, and these men are more than a number.
Henry Urrutia's two-minute post-game interview last night reminded me of that notion.
The Orioles signed Urrutia in July of 2012 as an international free-agent out of Cuba, and it's a stretch to say he's a future game-changer. Urrutia's a singles-doubles hitter with occasional pop that, to me, seems to play a pretty good outfield. Urrutia's career Triple-A slash of .288/.330/.396 with 12 HRs and 80 RBIs in 187 games doesn't explode off the page, and even a quick stint in 2013 with the Orioles in which he had 16 hits (15 singles) in 58 plate appearances didn't leave a lasting impression.
Urrutia was also the victim of a sports hernia a year ago that kept him from breaking in with a 96-win team, a frustrating obstacle for a Cuban player that a fan-base expects to mirror the likes of fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler. Urrutia is what he is, and for the Orioles, what he is is a possible spark at a position needing just that.
The 28-year-old Cuban was called up by the O's on August 15 after the team officially released Travis Snider and demoted the free-swinging Junior Lake to Triple-A, a pair of players manager Buck Showalter hoped would seize left field for themselves. Looking for any sort of offensive output, Urrutia was given a chance to play everyday in the Baltimore outfield, and his biggest moment came last night.
After falling behind in a 1-2 count leading off the bottom the 9th, Urrutia lifted a high and away fastball into the left field seats, somewhat of a playful jab at the stable of players Showalter saw try and fail all season in that portion of real estate.
Urrutia was met with water bottles, Caleb Joseph's favorite cooler and a barrage of Orioles celebrating the man who clinched the back-and-forth 5-4 win. Urrutia's finest moment, however, came in his chat with MASN's Gary Thorne and Mike Bordick.
The video here is only two minutes long, but it's a very touching, very personal look at Urrutia.
If you decide not to watch (insert red-faced mad emoji), you miss the chance to see someone treat the game of baseball with the attitude it was meant to be played with. Like a kid.
Thorne: "You won't forget your first home run, will ya?"
Urrutia: "Wow...unbelievable...I'm really excited right now."
As is true to the Orioles and Adam Jones, you knew the pie was coming, and of course, it did. Jonesy strolled up the dugout steps, politely removed the MASN headset and sent the signature dessert straight into his schnoz. You could tell Urrutia was taking it all in, but he wasn't done yet.
Bordick: "First of all, what flavor pie did you get?"
Urrutia: "Whatever, I don't care (laughingly)."
Later on, Urrutia summed up what the moment meant to him.
Bordick: "You had a great year in Triple-A. Anything you worked on specifically before this opportunity in the big leagues?"
Urrutia: "Well, I guess I worked hard. I was waiting for this moment, to do this here and I'm really happy. The work in Triple-A [translated] into results. Thank you."
Mr. Urrutia, with all due respect, you are in no position to thank anyone. We as a community should be thanking YOU for gracefully accepting the road less traveled. From Cuba to America, promising prospect to halting injuries, and Travis Snider to you, this is when WE thank you.
Deeper into the evening, my Twitter timeline turned into 140 characters of Rudy, as MASN's Steve Melewski chronologically reported the events that took place inside the locker room when speaking with Urrutia. Oh, and Adam Jones sent out one of his rare tweets in honor of Henry.
Henry Urrutia: "This is the best moment in my career. Today this moment is amazing."— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) August 20, 2015
As he ran toward 1B, Urrutia said he thought - "I can't believe this. This is the dream. I can't believe this."— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) August 20, 2015
Urrutia said it was amazing to get the ball. - "Now my son can say one day 'This is the first homer for my dad in the big leagues.'"— Steve Melewski (@masnSteve) August 20, 2015
No, it's not dusty in here. It's just really, really dusty in here.
I enjoy these kind of things, where a player elevates in the spotlight, and the moment feels that much better knowing a man with a passion like Urrutia's is the one at the center of attention. Baseball is a kid's game played by grown men, but that doesn't mean it can't be played with youthful enthusiasm. The Orioles are in a pennant chase yet again, and it's certainly now or never for the Birds, yet this was the kind of night that makes baseball what it is.
If this is the highlight of Henry Urrutia's career, I'm not one to say that he could have done more, because it seems as if he's done quite enough for himself already.
And that's pretty cool.