The Twelve Days of Shoremas, Part I

Celebrate the holidays with a Shorebirds-themed song!

(Delmarva Shorebirds)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | December 12, 2019 9:30 AM

One of the most inescapable parts of the holiday season is annual unboxing of every Christmas song you've ever heard. From the parades to the malls to every other radio station, our Decembers are soundtracked by Bing and Mariah and 15 new versions of that Wham song whose lyrics still don't make sense (isn't giving your heart to someone special where the problem started last Christmas, George Michael?).

 

We here at the Delmarva Shorebirds decided to get in on the fun this year and put out our own Christmas song that would pay final homage to the historic 2019 season at Perdue Stadium. A few days ago we sent some team representatives to the famous Brill Building in New York to solicit the very best songwriters. Once security had thrown us out, we realized we needed a different approach. So in the spirit of Bob & Doug McKenzie before us, we decided our way forward was retooling a beloved holiday standard to fit our own ends. The Bill Nighy character from Love Actually would approve.

 

So here it is, the song you'll be hearing on Q105 every 43 minutes through December 25…presenting "The Twelve Days of Shoremas!"

 

On the 12th Day of Shoremas, the Shorebirds gave to me…

 

Twelve Pitching Feats

Pitching was the name of the game in 2019. The Shorebirds had a stable full of aces at Arthur W., finishing the year ranked in the top 10 across all of full-season Minor League Baseball in 12 different pitching categories. Delmarva led the minors in wins (90), saves (53), shutouts (20), fewest hits (898), and batting average against (.205), and made impressive leaderboard appearances in stats like ERA (3.00), WHIP (1.18), and strikeouts (1,389). The Shorebirds' arms set the South Atlantic League record for strikeouts in a season and helped earn first-year pitching coach Justin Ramsey both SAL Coach of the Year and Orioles' Cal Ripken, Sr. Player Development Award.

 

Eleven-Inning Games

A far cry from the 21-inning games of yesteryear, the Shorebirds took the Spinal Tap route and only went 11. Delmarva's longest games this season were a pair of 11-inning affairs, both of which came with happy endings. Andrew Fregia's walkoff single in the bottom of the 11th lifted the Shorebirds to a 2-1 win over Kannapolis on April 17; Cowboy's heroics came in the midst of a 10-game winning streak and capped a perfect season-opening seven-game homestand. Flash forward three months to Delmarva's 100th game of the year, a Sunday afternoon showdown at West Virginia on July 21. Jaylen Ferguson tagged a go-ahead RBI single into center to score Alexis Torres, and Ruben Garcia locked it down in the bottom of the 11th to preserve a 3-2 win over the Power. That win was the Shorebirds' 69th of the season, surpassing their 2018 total with a month and a half to spare.

 

Video: Fregia wins it in 11th

 

Ten-Run Innings

At no time did Delmarva flex its offensive muscle more than on April 24 against Asheville. With one run home already in the bottom of the third, J.C. Encarnacion came up and slashed a two-run double to flip a 3-2 hole into a 4-3 lead. A few minutes and half a dozen runs later, Encarnacion came up again, this time pegging a sharp grounder that bounced off the second base bag and into center for another RBI single. That brought home the Shorebirds' 10th run of the inning, all but assuring the W in a 15-7 laugher. The win was Delmarva's 10th straight at home to begin the year, a number they'd stretch to 12 in a row with a pair of wins over Augusta later in the week.

 

Video: Encarnacion puts stamp on 10-run 3rd

 

Nine-Run Comebacks

After clinching the first half Northern Division title with ease, the Shorebirds seemed destined for a second-half hangover in their post-break debut at Greensboro on June 20, falling behind 11-2 after six. But oh how the tables turned: a four-run seventh bled into a four-run eighth, cutting the deficit to one run. In the top of the ninth, Cadyn Grenier led off with a walk and took second on a passed ball. Cody Roberts came up next and pounded a flyball deep to left center. Center fielder Fabricio Macias fell down making the catch, and Grenier turned on the jets to score all the way from second on the sac fly and tie it at 11-11. Edison Lantigua played the extra-inning hero in his team debut, singling home the winning run in the 10th as the Shorebirds stunned the Grasshoppers 12-11. The victory set the tone for another stellar half-season that saw Delmarva go 42-27 and tie Hickory atop the North.

 

Eight All-Stars

"Here's the story…of some pleasant players…" (Sorry, mixing up our parodies.) The 'Birds sent a Bunch of eight to the 60th Annual SAL All-Star Game in Charleston, West Virginia. Pitchers Grayson Rodriguez, Zach Matson, Ofelky Peralta, and Drew Rom joined catcher Daniel Fajardo, shortstop Adam Hall, outfielder Doran Turchin, and DH Seamus Curran at Appalachian Power Park, by far the largest team contingent in the league. Rodriguez was voted the game's starting pitcher for the Northern Division, while Turchin picked up game MVP honors with a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the eighth to power the North to a 5-2 win. Florence Henderson would've been proud.

 

 

Seven Wild Parties

 

*in our best Bill Hader voice* This club has everything: diamonds, bats, flying buckets of Gatorade, even a giant orange bird! Perdue Stadium became the Peninsula's hottest party seven times in 2019 thanks to game-winning, game-ending hits. The first became the stuff of legend: J.C. Encarnacion's grand slam to beat Lakewood 7-3 on April 13 in a game where the Shorebirds had been no-hit with one out in the ninth. Each night a different hero arose: Encarnacion was soon joined by Daniel Fajardo, Andrew Fregia, Alexis Torres, Ben Breazeale, and Cadyn Grenier. Jaylen Ferguson made it Lucky No. 7 on June 13 with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to beat Hickory 5-4. Club Walk-Off was the focal point in a year that saw Delmarva pick up 20 wins in the team's final at-bat. Your move, Seacrets!

 

We'll share the second half of our holiday ditty next week on Around the Roost. For now, time to rest up the singing voices and fend off a few cease and desist orders from Tin Pan Alley.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Mountcastle Blasts Way to IL MVP

Former Shorebird added to 40-man roster after mammoth '19

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | December 5, 2019 8:56 AM

In 2019, a fresh-faced first baseman took the National League by storm, smashing home runs at a record pace and ultimately cakewalking to Rookie of the Year. The baseball world sat up and noticed as the Mets' Pete Alonso obliterated the rookie home run record and led the majors with 53 round-trippers. While Alonso made headlines in the Senior Circuit, the Orioles hope that their own soon-to-be major-league first baseman will do the same in the Junior Circuit in 2020.

 

Baltimore is right to have high hopes for Ryan Mountcastle, who has come into his own three years after a summer with the Delmarva Shorebirds. The former first-round pick truly tapped into his power with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, slashing .312/.344/.527 with a career-best 25 home runs and 83 RBIs. Mountcastle added 35 doubles and scored 81 runs while leading the International League with 162 hits. After an illustrious season in a Triple-A League not known for top offense, it came as no surprise that Mountcastle was named IL Most Valuable Player, becoming the first Tide to win it in the Orioles era and the franchise's first since Roberto Petagine in 1997.

 

Birdland faithful who followed Mountcastle from the beginning knew he would eventually blossom into such a power threat. Drafted 36th overall out of Paul J. Hagerty High School in Florida, he spent his rookie summer of 2015 between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen, earning a spot on the Shorebirds' Opening Day roster in 2016. The 19-year-old made an instant impact, slugging a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to help Delmarva shut out intrastate rivals Hagerstown 4-0 in the season opener on April 7.

 

It would be some time before Mountcastle would leave the yard again, though. He went the rest of April without a home run, then the whole month of May. The winds finally shifted Mountcastle's way on June 6 in West Virginia, where he drilled a solo shot early in the Shorebirds' 13-inning win over the Power. With newfound confidence, Mountcastle locked in and belted three more homers before the All-Star Break, including two at the pitchers' paradise that is Perdue Stadium.

 

While his averaged dipped in the second half, Mountcastle still managed impressive numbers for a teenager in the South Atlantic League, hitting .281 with 28 doubles, four triples, 10 homers, 51 RBIs, and 53 runs scored while playing in 115 games for the Shorebirds, who missed a playoff berth by half a game in that year's first half standings.

 

 

After his summer in Salisbury, Mountcastle kept the ball rolling as he climbed the Oriole ladder. He went on a tear at the start of the 2017 campaign in High-A Frederick, hitting .318 with 13 extra-base hits over his first 28 games and earning a mid-season promotion to Double-A Bowie. He finished the full year with 18 homers and an .802 OPS over the two levels and earned an invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he played for the Salt River Rafters.

 

A repeat 2018 season with Bowie gave Mountcastle the finishing touches he needed to burst onto the Triple-A scene this year. While it took him 12 games to hit a home run, his first opened up a spurt of four longballs in five days. He belted a walk-off homer to beat Louisville on June 1 and followed it up the next day with three dingers in an onslaught of the Bats. After one of the more stellar campaigns by an Oriole farmhand in recent memory, Mountcastle was the organization's runaway pick for Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year.

 

Like another former Shorebird in Ryan McKenna , Mountcastle joined the Orioles' 40-man roster in recent weeks. While it remains to be seen if he'll get an Alonso-esque ticket to the majors in time for Opening Day, Mountcastle is as good a candidate as any to catch that rookie lightning in a bottle all over again.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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McKenna Takes Final Strides to Show

Center fielder first 2017 Shorebird on Orioles' 40-man

(Joey Gardner)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | November 21, 2019 11:17 AM

While nobody from the 2017 Delmarva Shorebirds has made it to the major leagues as of the end of 2019, one of that team's youngest members has taken perhaps his most important step yet in making it all the way to Baltimore. And in the relative calm of the offseason, no less.

 

On Wednesday the Orioles announced that outfield prospect Ryan McKenna had been named to the team's 40-man roster, along with three of his fellow high-prized minor leaguers. Born in 1997, the 22-year-old is the youngest member of Baltimore's 40-man. In addition to being signed to a major league contract, McKenna's new status protects him from being cherrypicked away by another club in next month's MLB Rule 5 Draft.

 

In short, the Orioles are confident enough that McKenna will be an asset in the big leagues to put him on the organization's most coveted shortlist. He stands a very real chance of making it to The Show next year.

 

A rare high-prized high school outfielder to hail from New England, McKenna became Baltimore's fourth-round pick in 2015 out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover, N.H. After a summer in Sarasota and another in Aberdeen, he made the Shorebirds' Opening Day roster in 2017 as a 20-year-old. Things started slow for McKenna but he eventually settled in, rising up on June 12 with a walk-off single to beat Kannapolis in the bottom of the 13th. The heroics sparked something in McKenna, who batted .280 after the All-Star Break and finished third in the South Atlantic League with 33 doubles.

 

The 2017-18 offseason may have come at a bad time for a hitter who was just settling into his groove, but McKenna took his resurgence to new heights with Frederick in 2018. He put up blistering first half numbers, slashing .377/.467/.556 with 28 extra-base hits and 60 runs scored over 67 games. One man who played a big role in McKenna's breakthrough was then-Keys hitting coach Kyle Moore, who managed the Shorebirds to a franchise record 90 wins the next year.

 

"Moore tries to keep it simple and tries to find what he thinks will allow us to perform to the best of our ability," said McKenna in an interview for the Shorebirds' PlayBall! magazine in June 2018. "We've got a good environment here; it's all positive, and I'm just trying to get together some good at-bats."

 

 

Had he stuck around Frederick he would've likely been named Carolina League MVP. But the Orioles had greater plans for McKenna, who was promoted to Bowie at the All-Star Break. As it is for so many prospects, the young outfielder's first foray into Double-A was trying; he hit just .239 over 60 initial games with the Baysox. But the body of work across both levels was enough to earn McKenna a roster spot in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. It was the Frederick version of McKenna who reemerged with the Glendale Desert Dogs: he hit .344 (fifth in the AFL) with a 1.064 OPS (second) against some of the best prospects in baseball.

 

While Double-A pitching remained a mystery for most of 2019, McKenna was an everyday piece in Buck Britton's lineup, playing 135 out of 140 games and batting .232. This year his 2017 Shorebird teammates began trickling into the Bowie clubhouse: ex-Delmarva standouts like Alex Wells, Preston Palmeiro, and Steven Klimek joined McKenna at Prince George's Stadium and helped the Baysox turn a 7-23 start into a berth in the Eastern League Championship Series.

 

As McKenna closes the books on 2019 his stock in Birdland is higher than ever. MLB Pipeline tabs him as the Orioles' 13th-best prospect with the ceiling of an everyday major league center fielder. A strong start with Triple-A Norfolk next season could fast-track him to the majors, where he could become the first Shorebird from the 2017 team, excluding rehabbers, to don the orange and black at Camden Yards. For the youngest member of the O's 40-man roster, the future may be the brightest.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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Newlywed Means Celebrates Milestone Year

Top Orioles rookie threw no-hitter with Shorebirds in 2015

John Means twirls the most recent individual Shorebirds no-hitter on July 31, 2015 (Delmarva Shorebirds)

By Will DeBoer / Delmarva Shorebirds | November 14, 2019 8:46 AM

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.

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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