MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

The $10 bleacher seats for last Thursday’s Yankees-Orioles matinee at Oriole Park were sold out, so our very able ticket purchaser instead secured us two Bob Uecker seats in one — dead center field, but also in the front rowwww …

Overlooking the playing field atop the batter’s eye wall in center field, the Roof Deck offers a bird’s eye view (see what I did there?) of Camden Yards, of both the field and Eutaw Street. It also features pod seating with a counter for food and beverage, plus a full-service credit card only bar.

It was a first for us, and it went quite well (did I mention there was a bar?), not only for us, but for the young Orioles as well, as the home team would produce what would be the first of two consecutive walk-off victories, giving O’s fans the two most exciting games of the season, the second walk-off in a row coming the following evening against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s just nice to see these guys, with all that’s worked against them the past few seasons, have some of these walk-off wins go their way for a change. The smiles on the faces of the players and the fans are real; the joy is true. These guys, under manager Brandon Hyde, battle every damn game, to the very last out or winning run.

There have been a lot of smiles around Camden Yards for a change, and even more came late Sunday afternoon, yet given what it is the Orioles organization is undergoing, the very best news of the week came early Preakness morning when the club announced it had called up switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman, the No. 1 pick of the 2019 MLB draft and the No. 1-rated big-league prospect in all of baseball.

In the brief time he’s been a professional (which has seemed like forever for anxious O’s fans), Rutschman has had his fair share of experience and success in the minor leagues. Just this year alone, he’s played in Class-A Advanced, Double-A and Triple-A.

He produced a strong spring training at the big-league camp and seemed on target to break camp with the Orioles for Opening Day. But a strained right triceps facilitated the club putting him on the shelf instead as there was no way General Manager Mike Elias was going to rush this player, because he is the centerpiece of the club’s immediate and long-term future.

Rutschman is the hub; he is the center of and the key to everything the Orioles have been and are doing since Elias came to town to implement his Houston Astros-style rebuild, sans the cheating (unless it works, of course).

Thus, it’s on. The actual rebuild is here and is under way, for once Rutschman becomes settled and established, which scouts everywhere believe will be soon, Orioles fans are bound to see even more critical elements of the top-rated farm system in all of baseball move into their new and future roles in Baltimore.

It won’t be too terribly long before Orioles fans see pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall and shortstop Gunnar Henderson playing with “Orioles” and “Baltimore” across their chests as well.

“When more of these guys come up,” Elias said on Sunday, “it’s nice to have (Rutschman) here first.”

The Orioles took heat from critics for making their big announcement on Preakness Saturday, but nothing can take away from the thrill and the excitement of the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown; not in Bawlmer, hon, because there’s nothing like the Preakness in Baltimore.

I liked the timing of the announcement because it added even more to what is always the most festive day of the year in the city, and Baltimore was abuzz all day and through the night, as Rutschman received the customary warm welcome this town is known for.

And just as the Orioles’ previous two Future of the Franchise players, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, did, Rutschman delivered a triple for the first big-league hit of his career. Now what are the chances, right? Hey, it’s baseball; it’s baseball in Bawlmer, hon.

On Sunday, the Orioles made it three come-from-behind walk-offs in four days with a 7-6 win over the Rays in 11 innings with Rutschman scoring the game-winner on a Rougned Odor fielder’s choice.

“Watching them the last couple of years, they’re not far off from competing,” Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier said of the Orioles, “… their time is coming.”

Good times. But let’s not start printing playoff tickets just yet. The Orioles rebuild is on schedule, but there remains much to do.

To an Orioles fan, this might not seem to make sense, but nobody should look at this season collectively; look at them, the players. Follow them and watch them each day. They’re not winning the pennant this year, so why waste our time contemplating standings? The big picture is not important this year; each individual picture and the collective progress made through those snapshots is what matters.

And one day, just as the fans in Houston saw before their very eyes …

In the mid to late 1980s, the Orioles commissioned a very upbeat and successful advertising campaign that accentuated the slogan, “These are exciting times. You’ve gotta be here.”

That slogan would seem to apply in Baltimore once more.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT