By Steve Hunt/Special to the Journal
ARLINGTON, Texas – It’s been Buck Showalter’s M.O. since he first became a big-league manager in 1992 – take over a struggling team and guide them to the playoffs.
The Mississippi State product did that in New York and Arizona, leading the Diamondbacks to their first postseason in franchise history in 1999.
He now appears to be doing the same in Baltimore.
The veteran skipper has been with the Orioles since July 2010 and currently has the Birds at 67-56 and in line for one of the American League wild card spots.
But true to form, he credits his players for the club’s impressive turnaround.
“It’s about the players,” Showalter said. “We did our homework on people. They’re good teammates and good people and they compete hard every day.”
Should he guide Baltimore to the postseason, it would end a 15-year playoff drought as the O’s last reached the playoffs in 1997, falling to Cleveland in the AL Championship Series.
But with about a month left in the season, he realizes any talk about ending such a streak is premature.
“To be talking about it is nice but our guys don’t look at it that way. I don’t want to be Captain Obvious with them. They understand what’s going on here,” he said.
One reason for the Orioles’ success is that the entire roster, a pretty young group, is a tightly knit unit that loves playing for this MSU product.
“He shows a lot of confidence in you,” rookie pitcher Zach Britton said. “He never quits on you. That’s the feeling I get from him, as a guy that really sticks with his players and definitely the guy you want to play for.”
Showalter spent just one season as a Bulldog, earning First-Team All-America honors in 1977, but that time in Starkville remains memorable.
“It’s special, one of the great times in my life,” he said. “I went back in the off-season once I signed a contract. Still one of the great accomplishments in my life was getting my degree.”
As the Orioles were in Texas to face the Rangers, he offered his take on Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland, a fellow MSU product.
“I’m real proud and everybody in the Bulldog family is proud of him. We’ve got one (former MSU player) up and coming in our system, Devin Jones, doing real well,” Showalter said. “I’m a big fan and I follow them closely.”