MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

Get there early tonight and stay late: Jackson Holliday is coming to town.

And what do you know? Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias has proven to be a man of his word.

Elias told us at the end of spring training, Holliday, MLB’s No. 1 prospect, was not being sent back to the minor leagues to allow the club to save service time, but because the 20-year-old phenom had played just 18 games at the Triple A level and could use some more time learning a new position (second base), as well as seeing more left-handed pitching of a higher degree than he has seen for his entire life..

Like many left-handed hitters against lefties, Holliday doesn’t have a good walk/strikeout ratio, and the Orioles were, after all, opening the season with a stretch against left-handed starters in over half the games. So why risk throwing the kid into a funk before he even gets started?

Ten games into the season and two days before the Orioles would secure that extra year of service time on Holliday, Elias, true to his word, made the call and brought the rookie to the big leagues to make his Major League debut Wednesday night in Boston.

In front of his family, who had to borrow a friend’s private jet (and don’t you just hate to have to do that?) to make the red-eye flight from Stillwater, Oklahoma to Boston, and to the delight of the seemingly lonely-eyed nation of Orioles fans, Holliday was in the big leagues.

He did go hitless, but was credited with an RBI to help fuel the Baltimore comeback victory.

In his second big-league game Thursday night, he again went hitless and is still adjusting to second base. Overall, though, the kid looked comfortable, said he was comfortable and more than held his own, and everybody seemed to be happy he was finally on board – the kid, the family, Orioles players, coaches and management and most of all the Orioles fans who did nothing but cry and complain like two spoiled children fighting over a toy about how Elias had put the season in peril through the course of 10 stinking games by not having baseball’s next great Wonderboy since Roy Hobbs on the team.

Look, here’s hoping Holliday is the next great Wonderboy. Here’s hoping he’ll be as good as Gunnar Henderson, which will be no small task, but let’s not forget that even Gunnar Henderson and, yes, Adley Rutschman had some difficult times adjusting to the Major Leagues before they grew into their shoes to become Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.

Henderson, if you remember, was hitting below .200 last season just before the All-Star break before going gangbusters and racing to the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

But, it’s supposed to be hard, as Jimmy Dugan once said, and it’s going to be hard for Jackson Holliday, because as good and as accomplished as he has been on every level he’s played on, going all the way back to T-ball (if he even needed to play it), there is a reason they call it The Show – it just plays differently up there.

As Jimmy Dugan said, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

Young Holliday is going to have some ups and he’s going to have some downs. You can put that up there with death and taxes because it’s the way it’s been for just about every Major Leaguer who has ever played the game, including his young teammate Colton Cowser, who is suddenly taking the American League East by storm.

What will surely help Holliday, though, aside from his 4-tool talent, will be his having grown up following his father Matt Holliday to big-league ballparks everywhere, learning the game and the big-league life first-hand (as a child) and, oddly enough, his age. Yes, Holliday is just 20, even though he looks 16, but then much of the Orioles’ big-league roster is made up of 20-somethings who, despite the plaudits already received by Rutschman and Henderson, are all still getting used to be being in the big leagues themselves.

Under manager Brandon Hyde and the player development system put into place by Elias, the Orioles have run as a tight-knit organization and 40-man roster the past two years, and since they’re still very young, with more on the way, they have carried themselves with a certain esprit de corps that has been so refreshing to see and has clearly paid dividends as a strength of a team and group of players who are said by baseball people to have no ceiling.

This, of course, remains to be seen, but for fans of the Baltimore Orioles, these are exciting times. Now that they have who and what they’ve wanted since spring training, hopefully they will exercise much more patience, appreciation and maturity for all Mike Elias has done and continues to do to make this organization one of the IT organizations that it’s become.

Naturally, I understand this is difficult to consider and nearly impossible to accept when you’re posting venom on social media, but Mike Elias really does have a handle on things here.

In the words of the great Bill Zapf, “He knows things that even we don’t know.”

Just enjoy the day, will ya?

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]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT