The Baltimore Orioles and the Culture of Winning


Oct 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks at a press conference before game three of the 2014 ALCS playoff baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt that the Baltimore Orioles have had a paradigm shift from a losing culture to that of a winning organization. Much of the baseball world has not caught up to that realization yet, at least among writers and prognosticators. But the players know it is true. They talk to each other. They know where others in the industry are happy with their circumstances. When guys are traded here, there and everywhere around the league, stories of experiences in others places are shared with each other.

Now that spring training has started, it is enjoyable again to hear daily quotes from Buck Showalter – the #1 source of the cultural shift. So many of his quotes are repeated over and over that they are almost predictable. I think that is even planned on his part – to repeat the components of the visionary plan of the organization, toward the end of them seeping in deeply.

Like many of you reading this, I am the member of various organizations. One of them is a total disaster right now. There are a couple of factions within it that refuse to reconcile for the greater good to be accomplished. I have attempted in various ways to mediate and pull people together, but have been largely rebuffed. On the other hand, another organization of which I am a part is simply awesome. There is a stated vision and purpose, everyone knows it and works together to accomplish it in their scattered locations across the country and around the world.

Brian Williams should wish he was a baseball player; the O’s would give him another shot!

The Orioles have moved from being like the former to becoming like the latter. And a big part of it is bringing a human touch to a big business. Expectations are not ignored, but people are valued for who they are, and even those who have had failures in other places are often given a chance at redemption. Brian Williams should wish he was a baseball player; the O’s would give him another shot!

For both those who have failed in some personal way or who have not lived up to a performance expectation, in Baltimore is an opportunity to turn it all around. Yesterday, Buck used a phrase he deploys from time to time when talking about the Oriole way of building a franchise. He said, coining a new word, “we out-opportunity everyone else.”

What a great phrase, and what an all-American concept for America’s pastime. Opportunity – it’s so apple pie, and red, white and blue. But it appeals to the competitive juices of many who want to seize upon the open door granted them. It is a fair shot at achievement. Those able to do it win, and when they win, the Orioles win as well.

I have oft written that the professional baseball player is the most mortal and ordinarily human of professional athletes. Those who make it do so after serving a good bit of time working their way to the top. They’ve ridden thousands of miles on a bus in the minor leagues, grabbing some clubhouse food at 10:30 in the evening and finishing it while walking to the bus with a pair of athletic bags slung over their shoulders.

Even when in college, though at the top of their sport for their age and stage of life, they were not campus idols with thousands of fans coming to their games. There weren’t any cheerleaders at the baseball field. Maybe some girlfriend came to the game and a few classmates who stopped for an inning while walking past the field when going from the dorm to the dining hall. A few received nice signing bonuses, but most had to work through years of development before there was any substantial payday.

This spring training roster, like last year and like next year, is filled with a variety of stories of guys looking to start over again and rekindle a dream and a career … looking to take advantage of an opportunity.

The Baltimore Orioles: an equal opportunity employer.

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