Cedric Mullins gets a Gatorade bath after hitting for the cycle. May 12, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins (31) reacts after first baseman Ryan O’Hearn (32) and left fielder Austin Hays (21) dump Gatorade on him during a post game interview against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles have been one of the biggest surprises in baseball. Just two years removed from a woeful 110-loss season, the O’s boasted the second-best record in baseball through the end of July and are primed for a deep postseason run.

How did this happen? Melanie Newman, the Orioles TV play-by-play announcer on MASN, says it’s not magic. Newman sat down with Jessica Kleinschmidt on The Comeback’s Short and to the Point podcast this week to talk about the O’s breakout season.

Newman said she recently asked veteran Orioles catcher James McCann to explain what’s happened this year. McCann, acquired in an offseason trade with the New York Mets, says he’s never seen a team get along so well.

“It starts with the clubhouse. It’s an historic clubhouse,” Newman said. “(McCann) has been in the big leagues for 10 years and he’s been to the postseason. He has seen some of the brightest stars in the game, and he said it’s the best clubhouse he’s ever been in, which blew me away. He was able to go into every little detail.”

Spending so much time watching the team and talking to players, Newman gets a first-hand look at that clubhouse chemistry.

“They’ve got a good mix of veterans, all of these rookies who don’t take it for granted,” Newman said. “You have enough of a mix of guys who are from the States, from other countries to share their experiences and give some background as well, like all these different walks of life.

“But I mean, they love each other. There’s no cliques. You don’t even see pitchers with pitchers. They’re literally hanging out with everybody all the time. They’re playing card games when they’re on the road, when you could do a million different things in some of these amazing cities that they’ve been in so far this year.”

This chemistry didn’t happen by accident, Newman said.

“You can’t teach character, you can’t teach guys to get along with each other,” Newman said. “They really went in and it started with the draft and drafting high-character guys and then making sure that everybody they’ve brought in has been of equally high character.

“And you see that cohesion and that’s what keeps them together.”

Of course, baseball is full of nice guys playing on losing teams. It helps to have a talented roster, too, and the O’s have come up big in the draft in recent years. The lineup is filled with homegrown young talent such as catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson, outfielder Anthony Santander and closer Félix Bautista.

Newman, 32, is now in her fourth year as an Orioles broadcaster. She’s seen those young players develop and said they’re playing with experience beyond their years.

“They’re doing the fundamentals the right way,” Newman said. “They have 35 comeback wins and that’s because they do the little things correctly. Now, I would like to have more than just a one-run lead going into the ninth because I’m gonna start having gray hair here in a little bit if that’s the case.

“But it just makes it so exciting and you see the patience that they have at the plate, they all know what specifically they’re looking for and how they want to read, not only location (but) type of pitch. It just makes it this overall performance that’s so easy and fun to get behind.”

Then there are the players who have flown under the radar, making a big impact that fans who don’t follow the Orioles might not notice. One such player is first baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn, who has nine home runs and an OPS of almost .900 in limited playing time.

“Ryan O’Hearn has the best OPS on the team and he had to fight for a spot in spring training and he still didn’t get that spot,” Newman said. “And when you look at him, he reminds me of Jonny Gomes when he first came up with Tampa Bay and was sent back down and Jonny said, ‘I will be so obnoxious.’

“Ryan O’Hearn is that guy and he has said it to us straight-faced.”

Everything is going great in Baltimore this season, which not only makes things more fun in the clubhouse, on road trips, etc., it also breeds more winning. Newman said that outfielder Aaron Hicks, who was signed by the O’s in late May after the New York Yankees released him, pointed out the huge difference between the two teams.

“He said with New York, everything was under a microscope of results based,” Newman said. “(Every at-bat) was a failure if it wasn’t a hit, you know, and the whole game, it’s under a microscope, it’s results, results, results.

“And he said, you get so overwhelmed and over focused on that, that you forget that in order to be successful, you do actually have to enjoy the game.”

The Orioles, and Newman, are certainly enjoying a season to remember.

[Short and to the Point Podcast]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.