With the signing of Welington Castillo, the eight-year Orioles career of Matt Wieters has effectively come to an end. At this point many of us aren’t sad to see him go, even though it will certainly be strange seeing him on another team.
But there was a time that doesn’t feel so long ago when the very idea of Matt Wieters was enough to make us smile, to make us hopeful for a future that included winning Orioles baseball.
Where were you when you heard that Matt Wieters was being called up to the big leagues? The day was May 26, 2009, and I was at MASN’s first annual blogger night. See, back when the Orioles were bad, the Orioles and MASN tried to cater to those of us writing about the Orioles from our mom’s basement.
I was hobnobbing with Orioles bloggers and MASN personalities in a suite when Andy MacPhail came on the TV screen during the game, announcing that Wieters would be joining the team that Friday, May 29th. There was pandemonium in the suite as everyone took in the news. Could this really be happening?
Matt Wieters, one of the most hyped prospects in baseball history, was being called up. He was going to be our savior, he was going to lead us to the promised land (aka, slightly ahead of the Blue Jays). The Orioles and their fans were into their 12th straight losing season at that point, desperate for any signs of hope. Matt Wieters was that hope.
Every Orioles fan I knew bought a ticket to the game on Friday. On top of that, the first game by Matt Wieters was also during Union Night, always a big draw. It was a packed house and there was electricity in the air. It sounds cliche, but ask anyone who was there. The atmosphere was positively crackling with hope and excitement, emotions that had been absent from Camden Yards for far too long.
Orioles fans traveled from near and far to witness the debut. I’m sure many of you reading this were there. I attended with my family but got to meet several Camden Chat friends for the first time, including our boss Mark Brown.
It had rained earlier in the day, causing a bit of worry that the big day might be delayed. But it cleared up in time for the game, leaving behind only a rainbow that arched behind the warehouse, like a sign from above that everything will be ok now that Wieters is here.
Wieters debuted in the seventh spot of the lineup, between Luke Scott and Nolan Reimold. The crowd roared when he was announced. The first play of the game was a check swing ground ball that died in front of the plate. Wieters pounced on it and easily threw out the runner; the ballpark exploded.
People were on their feet for a check swing ground out. I was one of them. I cheered and then laughed at myself for cheering, then cheered some more. I can still remember that giddy feeling that I had walked around with since the moment that MacPhail announced that Wieters was being called up, and it was about to explode in my chest as the game started.
The Orioles beat the Detroit Tigers that night, though Wieters didn’t contribute at the plate. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and got a loud ovation at every single at bat.
We’ve seen a lot of fantastic baseball at Camden Yards in the recent past, but in 2009 important baseball was just a far away dream. But with the promotion of Matt Wieters it was like we saw the light at the end of the tunnel, we had been faithful and Matt Wieters was going to reward us.
Of course, it didn’t turn out that way. The Orioles were still three years away from a winning season and the career of Matt Wieters didn’t turn out the way any of us hoped. He had periods of solid contributions but never turned into Mauer with Power or any of the other nicknames bestowed upon him.
That doesn’t erase the fact that the debut of Matt Wieters was an amazing day filled with hope and promise. I’d never been to a baseball game quite like that before and I doubt I will again.
We’ll always have Wietersmas.