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Tuesday Bird Droppings: Where the video game Orioles are off to a hot start

Under the steady leadership of Dwight Smith Jr., the Orioles got off to a 3-1 start in the MLB The Show Players League last night.

Atlanta Braves v Baltimore Orioles
Pictured: Possible future manager Dwight Smith Jr.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

If you, like me, have been missing Orioles baseball, yesterday’s MLB The Show Player’s League offered the closest facsimile you’ll be seeing in a while. And it was...actually pretty exciting!

For those unfamiliar, 30 players — one from each major league team — are competing against each other in the MLB The Show video game, with the broadcasts aired live online. Yesterday, Orioles representative Dwight Smith Jr. played his first set of four, three-inning games, and heck yeah I was tuning in.

It turns out Smith is pretty darn good. Even saddled with a somewhat lacking Orioles roster, he won three of his four games against some tough opponents.

The night began at Yankee Stadium, where Smith and the Orioles took on Yanks reliever Tommy Kahnle and his squad. Smith spotted the Yankees four runs in the first — including a Gleyber Torres three-run homer, because of course — but immediately charged back, plating six runs in the top of the second. Pinch-hitter Chris Davis tied the game with a three-run homer, leading Smith to exclaim, “LET’S GO! Chris is not done yet!” Kahnle then brought himself (or technically, the video game version of himself) into the game and coughed up a go-ahead, two-run homer to Anthony Santander.

Smith pressed all the right buttons — literally and figuratively — as he guided the O’s to a tense 6-5 victory. “Oh my God! That was awesome. That game was awesome,” Smith said on his Twitch feed afterwards. “I had adrenaline like I was playing a real game. My heart’s beating out of my chest.”

Next, Smith cruised to a 2-0 shutout of Hunter Pence’s Giants, thanks to a Trey Mancini first inning homer. “Welcome to the Boom-Boom room, baby!” Smith shouted as the ball cleared the virtual fence. Tanner Scott closed out the game, won by Alex Cobb.

Smith’s perfect record was shattered by a heartbreaker against Blake Snell and the Rays. The O’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first against Snell himself, including a homer by Smith himself. “We can hit lefties, dawg! Let’s go!” Smith yelled in triumph. But closer Mychal Givens blew the lead in the final half of the third, and Mike Zunino’s walkoff homer ended it in the fourth.

Smith rebounded with a win over Cole Tucker’s Pirates in the finale, featuring another Smith home run and another pulse-pounding ending. Pittsburgh put runners at second and third with nobody out before Smith elected to intentionally walk the next hitter to load the bases. The decision panned out perfectly when Miguel Castro induced a home-to-first double play and then got a grounder to short to secure a 1-0 victory.

I’m not really a guy who likes to watch other people play video games on the internet, but I’m glad I made an exception in this case. This was pretty cool. I got way more invested in the virtual Orioles than I expected, and Smith’s running commentary about himself and his video game teammates was a hoot. (“Bert, what was that?” asked Smith after video game Hanser Alberto overran a grounder. “That was suspect, yo.”) And his managerial chops were on point. Smith had a knack for pulling his pitchers at the right time and making bold decisions (like removing second baseman Rio Ruiz in the middle of an inning after an error).

Along the way, Smith answered questions from Twitch commenters, including his opinion on Hunter Harvey’s mulleted hairstyle. “I’m going to start calling him Joe Exotic,” he said.

After the roughly two-hour endeavor was finished, Smith said he needed a nap. “This is awesome,” he said. “This tournament is going to be sick.”

Smith’s next set of games is scheduled for Thursday. It’s worth tuning in for.


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Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! This was a popular day for Orioles players to be born, as a whopping eight of them have an April 14 birthday. They include extremely rushed-to-the-majors prospect Jeff Fiorentino (37); lefty and Ken Griffey Jr. mammoth-homer-giver-upper Brad Pennington (51); righty relievers Mike Trombley (53) and Jay Aldrich (59); and catchers Greg Myers (54) and Gregg Zaun (49), the latter of whom might be related to a famous Oriole or something. It’s never been mentioned.

It’s also the posthumous birthday of 1955 infielder Kal Segrist (b. 1931, d. 2015) as well as lefty Frank Bertaina (b. 1944, d. 2010), who had two stints with the O’s in the ‘60s.

On this day in 1954, the Orioles notched their first win in franchise history, beating the Tigers, 3-2, in Detroit. The O’s got all three of their runs in the first inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Sam Mele and Vern Stephens, then held on to the finish thanks to a complete game by Duane Pillette. Hall of Famer and Baltimore native Al Kaline, who passed away last week, went 1-for-4 that day as a 19-year-old rookie for the Tigers.