Season In Review: The Tides finished the season with a 52-78 record, placing them sixth in the Triple-A East Southeast Division. It was the third-lowest winning percentage in franchise history (.400). They went 30-35 at Harbor Park but struggled on the road going 22-43. Norfolk’s series record was 6-15-1. In the Triple-A Final Stretch, the Tides went 4-6, winning a series at Charlotte, 3-2, and losing to the Durham Bulls, 4-1, who were crowned the Triple-A East Regular Season Champions and the Triple-A Final Stretch winner.
Record-Breaking Roster: The Tides set franchise records in roster size and transactions in 2021. 84 different players appear on the active roster in 2021, with 81 of those players appearing in a game (RHP Shaun Anderson, RHP Joey Krehbiel, and RHP Luis Pérez all appeared on Norfolk’s roster but never played in a game). The previous high was 75 players on the roster in 2012, which set the International League record for a roster size at the time. The Tides recorded 262 roster moves during the 2021 season, surpassing the previous mark of 241 set in 2019.
There were 46 players to appear on the active roster for both Norfolk and Baltimore in 2021: Pitchers Fernando Abad, Keegan Akin, Shaun Anderson, Shawn Armstrong, Manny Barreda, Mike Baumann, Zach Burdi, Marcos Diplán, Tom Eshelman, Jay Flaa, Paul Fry, Connor Greene, Eric Hanhold, Ryan Hartman, Hunter Harvey (MLB Rehab), Mickey Jannis, Dusten Knight, Joey Krehbiel, Dean Kremer, Brooks Kriske, Travis Lakins Sr., Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson, John Means (MLB Rehab), Adam Plutko, Mac Sceroler (MLB Rehab), Dillon Tate (MLB Rehab), César Valdez, Brandon Waddell, Konner Wade, Spenser Watkins, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmermann, infielders Kelvin Gutierrez, Jahmai Jones, Domingo Leyba, Tyler Nevin, Ramón Urías and Pat Valaika, outfielders Austin Hays (MLB Rehab), Richie Martin, Ryan McKenna and Stevie Wilkerson, catchers Nick Ciuffo, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns.
16 different Tides made their Major League debuts in 2021: Manny Barreda, Mike Baumann, Marcos Diplán, Jay Flaa, Conner Greene, Ryan Hartman (made MLB debut with Houston), Mickey Jannis, Dusten Knight, Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson, Ryan McKenna, Tyler Nevin, Mac Sceroler, Konner Wade, Spenser Watkins and Alex Wells.
Baby Birds: Norfolk was host to many of the Orioles’ top prospects throughout the 2021 season. The Tides had 15 of Baltimore’s Top 30 Prospects (according to MLB.com preseason rankings) appear on the roster at some point during the 2021 campaign. That list included Adley Rutschman (#1), Yusniel Diaz (#8), Mike Baumann (#9), Dean Kremer (#10), Zac Lowther (#11), Kevin Smith (#12), Keegan Akin (#15), Kyle Stowers (#17), Jahmai Jones (#19), Alex Wells (#20), Ryan McKenna (#22), Tyler Nevin (#23), Rylan Bannon (#26), Cody Sedlock (#28) and Kyle Bradish (#29).
Brooks Robinson Award(s): Adley Rutschman and Kyle Stowers were co-winners of the 2021 Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award for the Baltimore Orioles. Both hitters were promoted to Triple-A late in the season, with Rutschman arriving on August 10 and Stowers on September 7. They are the seventh and eighth Tides to win the award since 2007, joining L.J. Hoes (2012), Henry Urrutia (2013), Christian Walker (2014), Chance Sisco (2016), Cedric Mullins (2018) and 2019 International League MVP Ryan Mountcastle. Rutschman and Stowers are the first Oriole minor leaguers to split the award.
Rutschman’s Recap: In 43 games played from August 10 through the end of the season, Adley Rutschman hit .312 (49-for-157) with 25 runs scored, nine doubles, two triples, five home runs, 20 RBI, 24 walks and slashed .405/.490/.896. In that timeframe, he ranked among 59 qualified Triple-A East batters in hits (T3rd), batting average (6th) and on-base percentage (8th). He recorded 11 multi-hit games, including three three-hit games. Rutschman also recorded a 19-game on-base streak from August 18 to September 8, which was tied for the third-longest on-base streak for Norfolk in 2021.
In Rutschman’s Triple-A debut on August 10, Rutschman caught a one-hit shutout in a 4-0 win over the Memphis Redbirds at Harbor Park. He also went 2-for-4 in that game, scoring a run and hit an RBI double. Rutschman would catch two more shutouts for the Tides on September 3 vs. Charlotte and September 24 at Charlotte. In the field, he never recorded an error in 29 games at catcher and eight games at first base. He caught 26.9% attempted base stealers (7-for-26) at catcher while allowing one passed ball.
Rutschman was drafted as the number one overall pick by Baltimore in the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Oregon State University. He’s the second player in Orioles history to be selected first overall in the Major League Draft, (RHP Ben McDonald, 1989) and the first catcher to be drafted first overall since 2001 (Joe Mauer by the Minnesota Twins). Rutschman was the first catcher selected by the Orioles in the first round of the Major League Draft since Matt Wieters (No. 5 overall) in 2007. Wieters was the last player for the Tides that ranked as the best prospect by Baseball America, in which he played 39 games for Norfolk in 2009 before making his Major League debut with Baltimore. Rutschman became the seventh number one overall pick to play for Norfolk, joining Steve Chilcott (1966), Tim Foli (1968), Darryl Strawberry (1980), Shawn Abner (1984), Paul Wilson (1994) and Tim Beckham (2008).
Stowers Power: In 22 games with Norfolk, Kyle Stowers hit .272 (22-for-81) with 10 runs, two doubles, three home runs, 11 RBI, 12 walks and slashed .366/.407/.773. He recorded a 14-game on-base streak starting with game two on September 11 through September 29. That streak was started with back-to-back games with a home run and totaled three within the first five games of that streak. He recorded a career-high four hits on September 24 at Charlotte and finished with five multi-hit games.
Big Mike’s Journey: After getting his contracted selected by Baltimore in the 2020 offseason, Mike Baumann started 2021 with Delmarva before being promoted to Bowie after two starts in late May. He would make his Triple-A debut with the Tides on July 30 vs. Durham, where he earned the win after throwing a 5.0-inning complete game with the game ending early due to rain. He was the second Norfolk pitcher to win in their Triple-A debut in three days (Nick Vespi, game two on July 28 vs. Durham). Baumann became the first Tide to throw a complete game in his Triple-A debut as an Orioles affiliate and the second to throw one in his Tides debut (Tommy Hunter; 7.0 IP complete game; June 2, 2012, Game 1 vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; W, 3-1). He would make his last appearance with the Tides on August 31 vs. Charlotte before being recalled to Baltimore on September 7 to make his MLB debut. He would earn the win in relief vs. Kansas City, throwing 3.2 innings and allowed one unearned run on two hits and a walk while striking out Hunter Dozier for his first big league punch out. Among Triple-A East pitchers with at least 27.0 innings pitched from July 30 to August 31, Baumann ranked among league leaders in ERA (2nd, 2.00), opponent’s batting average (3rd, .194) and WHIP (8th, 1.19).
Team Franchise Records: The lone bright spot offensively for the Tides this season was that they broke the franchise record for most home runs per game, hitting 141 in 130 games (1.085 per game). That topped 1971’s 151 homers in 140 games (1.079). However, the Tides found themselves on the wrong end of two franchise records in 2021, recording a franchise-low in batting average (.220 | .236 in 1974), and a franchise-high in strikeouts (1,228 | 1,175 in 2017).
Barreda’s Career Year: In his first year of American professional baseball since 2017, Manny Barreda had a year to remember. He was able to represent Team Mexico in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, starting their final game against Team Israel. With the Tides, he pitched in 27 games (two starts), going 2-3 with a save and a 3.79 ERA (17 ER, 40.1 IP) while striking out 40 and walking 12. His contract was selected by Baltimore on September 7 and made his Major League Debut on September 8 vs. Kansas City. He ended up earning the win in relief after the Orioles mounted a nine-run inning in the bottom of the eighth to help beat the Royals, 9-8. Barreda struck out Michael A. Taylor for his first big league strikeout. He became the 14th oldest player in MLB history to win in his debut (32.335 years old) and the second oldest in Baltimore Orioles history (Koji Uehara, April 8, 2009 vs. the Yankees, 34.005 years old). His win came a day after Mike Baumann won in his MLB Debut.
The Hit Man: The record for most hit-by-pitches in a season by a Tides batter as an Orioles affiliate was shattered by Brett Cumberland in 2021. He was hit 28 times, leading the Triple-A East and was second in all of Minor League Baseball (Reno’s Seth Beer, 30). It was also the most by a Triple-A East/International League player since 2005 when Mike Kinkade was hit 30 times in 2005 with Buffalo. The previous record for the Tides as an Orioles affiliate was held by Jake Fox (2011) and Brandon Waring (2012), who both had 10. The last time a Tides’ hitter led the league in hit-by-pitches was in 1991 when Terrell Hansen led the International League with 20.
Diplán Futures: Despite the minor leagues not having an All-Star Break in 2021, the Norfolk Tides did have Marcos Diplán participate in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on July 11 at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado, home of the Colorado Rockies. He was just the second Tides’ player as an Orioles’ affiliate to participate in the exhibition (Chris Tillman, 2009). Diplán also pitched twice for the Dominican Republic in the 2020 Olympics Baseball Qualifiers this season, tossing 3.0 scoreless innings in relief. He would go on to make his Major League debut with the Orioles on August 6 vs. Tampa Bay and struck out Ji-Man Choi, the first batter he faced.
Neus-Bomb: After getting called up to Norfolk on July 20, Robert Neustrom finished the season with 64 games played with the Tides. He hit .232 with 32 runs, 52 hits, 16 doubles, nine home runs, 33 RBI, 29 walks and slashed .324/.424/.748. The 16 doubles ranked tied for seventh in the Triple-A East in that span. He finished 31 doubles overall in 2021, which ranked first in the Orioles farm system. In game one on July 28 vs. Durham, Neustrom hit a walk-off three-run homer in the seventh inning to beat the Bulls, 4-3. He also hit an inside-the-park home run on July 25 at Gwinnett, one of two inside-the-parkers for the Tides in 2021 (Jahmai Jones, July 30 vs. Durham).
Jammin’ Jahmai: For the majority of the Tides’ season, Jahmai Jones was the offensive leader. In 70 games played, he hit .243 (62-for-255) with 34 runs, nine doubles, three triples, 11 home runs, 37 RBI, 25 walks, 11 stolen bases and slashed .337/.431/.768. He played the first week of the season at Jacksonville before landing on the Injured List on May 10. He returned on June 8 and rattled off a team-high 26-game on-base streak (starting May 9) through July 9, the 10th longest on-base streak in the Triple-A East in 2021. Jones’ efforts earned him his first call-up to the Orioles since being traded from the Los Angeles Angels on February 2, 2021 for Alex Cobb. Jones made two stints with Baltimore from August 23 to September 16 and September 22 through the end of the season.
Speed Kills: On July 9 vs. Durham, the Tides stole six stolen bases, setting the franchise record as an Orioles affiliate (since 2007). Mason McCoy stole two bags, while Zach Jarrett, J.C. Escarra, Jahmai Jones and Rylan Bannon stole the others. Four of the six stolen bags came in the fourth inning. The last time the Tides had six stolen bases was on August 4, 2005 at Indianapolis. Norfolk stole 82 bases in 2021, the most since 2014 when they swiped 102 bases.
Ron Johnson Recognition: Former Tides Manager Ron Johnson was inducted into the Tidewater Baseball Shrine at Harbor Park in between games of a doubleheader against the Charlotte Knights on September 1. Johnson managed the Tides during the final seven seasons of his career from 2012-18 and amassed 491 wins in that time, making him both the winningest and longest-tenured manager in franchise history. The Tidewater Baseball Shrine recognizes players and executives who have significantly contributed to the game of baseball in the Tidewater area. His son Chris Johnson, who is now the hitting coach for Charlotte, received the honor for his father, who sadly passed away on January 26, 2021 at the age of 64 years old. Chris played for his father in Norfolk during the 2017 season.
Bannon’s Big Week: The Triple-A East Player of the Week for August 9 – 15 was awarded to Rylan Bannon, who in five games hit .500 (7-for-14), with six runs, a double, five home runs, nine RBI and five walks while slashing .632/1.643/2.274. His five home runs came within his first three games, hitting two on Wednesday, one on Thursday and two more on Friday. His two multi-home run games were the second and third of his career. In three of his games, he reached base safely at least three times. It was the third Player of the Week honor Bannon has earned in his career. He was the first Norfolk Tides hitter to win Player of the Week since Jace Peterson won it for the International League from July 8 – 14, 2019.
Kendall’s Final Season: After the 2021 season concluded, the Orioles announced they parted ways with Tides manager Gary Kendall. Pitching coach Kennie Steenstra was also let go. Kendall managed the Tides in 2019 and 2021 and worked at the Orioles alternate site in 2020 during the COVID pandemic. He went 112-157 in his two seasons with the Tides. Kendall managed Double-A Bowie for eight seasons before coming to Norfolk. He is Bowie’s career wins leader.
The Zombro Tragedy: On June 3 at Durham, tragedy struck ending the game in the top of the eighth inning. Durham pitcher Tyler Zombro was hit in the head by a 104 MPH line drive off of Brett Cumberland’s bat. The game was initially suspended, then subsequently called, resulting in a, 12-4, win for Norfolk. Zombro underwent a successful surgery for his fractured skull. He was able to return to Durham’s clubhouse later on and was able to celebrate with Durham after winning the Triple-A Final Stretch at Harbor Park in the final week of the season.