John Means may not have won American League Rookie of the Year on Monday, but after the week he had he likely doesn't mind. Three days before the announcement, the Orioles' left-hander married longtime girlfriend Caroline Stanley in Kansas City. A top athlete in her own right, the new Mrs.
John Means may not have won American League Rookie of the Year on Monday, but after the week he had he likely doesn't mind. Three days before the announcement, the Orioles' left-hander married longtime girlfriend Caroline Stanley in Kansas City. A top athlete in her own right, the new Mrs. Means was a goalkeeper on several U.S. junior national teams and played professionally in the National Women's Soccer League for three seasons. Their kids will probably take up the cello.
The nuptials mark the end of a banner 2019 for Means, who went from also-ran in the Baltimore farm system to reliable major league starter. In his first full season with the Orioles, the native Kansan went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, and 121 strikeouts over 155 innings. He was named the Orioles' representative at the All-Star Game in Cleveland and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting earlier this week, the highest finish for an Oriole first-year since pitcher Rodrigo Lopez finished runner-up in 2002.
Means may have been one of the Junior Circuit's breakthrough players this season, but to Delmarva Shorebirds fans who saw the southpaw at work in 2015, this was no revelation.
An 11th-round pick out of West Virginia in 2014, Means primarily spent his first pro summer in short-season Aberdeen before breaking 2015 with Delmarva. Named the team's Opening Day starter, Means scattered three hits across six scoreless innings, earning the win in a 10-0 shutout over Greensboro. Five times in the first half Means went six innings in a start, winning each time.
A model of consistency for most of the summer, Means took it up a notch in a July 31 doubleheader against Charleston, spinning one of the finest individual pitching performances in Shorebirds history. Through six innings he had kept the RiverDogs at bay, and with each out every set of eyes of Perdue Stadium hovered toward the goose egg in the visitors' hits column. The seventh inning came - a first out, a second. Then, a strikeout of Charleston's Austin Aune for the game's final out. A pump of the fist from Means, a no-hitter secured. His teammates spilling out to the mound to mob him as 3,600-plus Delmarva cheered in delight. No individual Shorebird pitcher has equaled Means' feat in four-plus seasons since.
Two weeks later Means was promoted to High-A Frederick, finishing his Delmarva tenure with a 9-8 record and 3.50 ERA over 23 starts. He rolled through Frederick to begin 2016, earning a midseason promotion to Bowie, and made it to Norfolk midway through 2018. He finished that campaign with a September callup to Baltimore, setting himself up for his marvelous 2019.
It was soon after his Delmarva breakthrough that Means met his future wife. Earlier this summer their romantic journey got a full write-up from The Athletic's Dan Connolly. First meeting at a New Year's Eve party at the end of 2015, the two competitors eventually dove head-first into a courtship. After three years - and more than a few times getting kicked out of couples' game nights - John and Caroline got engaged in January. In between the engagement and the alter, Caroline went to work as Goalkeeper Coach for the University of Tulsa women's soccer program, while Means retroactively financed his fiancé's engagement ring with a full season's major league salary.
Indeed, it seems earning top rookie billing in the AL was the only thing John Means didn't accomplish in 2019. He may not be a major league rookie anymore, but he and Caroline will enter 2020 as a rookie husband and wife. And while there may not be a Most Valuable Newlyweds award, rest assured Mr. and Mrs. Means would have the inside track.