Baltimore Orioles: The Long Road of Henry Urrutia


Aug 19, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Henry Urrutia (51) hits a walk off home run during the ninth inning against the New York Mets at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles defeated New York Mets 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It is difficult to contemplate a more fantastic story than that of Henry Urrutia and the joy of his walk-off home run for the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday evening over the New York Mets, 5-4.  It was the first home run of his career for the 28-year-old Cuban defector.

Things have come slowly in life for Urrutia. It has been a long and circuitous road that has now landed him in OPACY with the chance to hit a long ball and circle the bases.

Even defecting did not work out for him the first time that he attempted it in 2010. He successfully did just less than four years ago, going to Haiti. But immigration issues piled up and it was 2013 before he could begin his baseball career again.

He began at AA Bowie where he batted .365 in 52 games with seven home runs. He was moved up to AAA where, after a short adjustment, he batted .316 in 29 games with a pair of homers.

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This earned him a call-up to the Baltimore Orioles where he made his debut on July 20th. In 24 games he batted .276, showing an ability to hit the opposite way with many singles through the left side of the infield.

Next came the Arizona Fall League. Urrutia hit .377 and was third overall in league batting.

Unfortunately, 2014 happened. Urrutia hit .262 in spring training but did not inspire sufficiently to make the Baltimore Orioles roster heading north. The disappointment was obvious and hit him hard.

He got off to a bad start at Norfolk. He was batting a paltry .220 at the end of April. And then a sports hernia injury took him out for all of May and June. He came back to play for the Gulf Coast Orioles team and only hit .230 there.

Finally in August, Urrutia was moved back to the Tides. There he did hit .310 for the final month of the season, salvaging something of worth from his 2014 efforts.

Urrutia again had a good spring training in 2015, but the Orioles had plans for quite a number of outfielders ahead of him … guys with the last names of Lough, De Aza, Snider, Young … guys who are now all gone. But Urrutia remains.

Could this be the beginning of a long-term outfield assignment for him with the O’s? Clearly his defense has improved. He still hits the ball to left field a lot (including his first home run), but I have never understood why this has been criticized by many. I remember a fellow named Rod Carew who did this all the time. His picture is on a wall in Cooperstown, NY.

The post-game interviews of Urrutia were among the most awkward I have ever seen. Clearly this really fine young man is sensitive about his developing English skills. But like everything else in his life, it may be a bit delayed in arriving, but he will work on it and a day will come when it gets to where it needs to be.

The win was a good one for the Orioles, who needed it badly to keep pace with the Yankees. The O’s simply need to keep winning, and the opportunity to do so is before them as they will finish this week with four straight against the Twins.

As we wrote yesterday, the O’s needed to forget the loss to the Mets, especially Jonathan Schoop. And he certainly did so by hitting a two-run homer and making some great defensive plays.

Next: A game to quickly forget