Welcome to the 2017 Orioles baseball season, starting only four days late here at the Great Orioles Autograph Project; which let's face it, is pretty timely for me these days.
This year's Opening Day roster includes four new faces to the Orioles. (In addition to one that I still am trying to track down from last year, since a Wade Miley Orioles autograph has continued to elude me since he was traded to the O's last August.) The new members to the 2017 Baltimore Orioles 25 man Opening Day roster are C Welington Castillo, OF Seth Smith, OF Craig Gentry, and LHP Vidal Nuno. Three of those guys made their Orioles debuts on Opening Day, and I'm guessing that you can figure out who this post is about by the little clue up there at the top.
Let me just get this out of the way first. Matt Wieters, the former top prospect, my favorite player, and the O's regular catcher for most of the past eight seasons is no longer on the team. That's a tough thing for a fan to deal with, but the writing had been on the wall. I was shocked that he was back in 2016, as he became one of the first ever free agents to accept a qualifying offer from his former team. It was nearly a foregone conclusion that he wouldn't be back after the O's did not extend another offer after the 2016 season.
Unfortunately, he never attained the level of success that the Orioles or their fans had hoped for; I mean this guy was the top prospect in all of baseball at one point and some people were ready to anoint his as a Hall of Famer in waiting before his MLB debut. I admit, I overvalued him early on, but I was not alone. I will miss him being on the Orioles, especially since he's now playing for the somewhat-rival Natinals, but I enjoyed rooting for him for a long time. Now I just need to figure out who my new favorite Oriole will be!
So anyway, no pressure on Welington Castillo from me or anything...he's only replacing the guy who had been my favorite player for about a decade. But realistically, he very well might be an offensive and defensive upgrade over Wieters, and anything that makes the Orioles better is a good thing for all of us. The Orioles signed Castillo to a one year deal with an option on December 16th after the Diamondbacks surprisingly released him.
As another year begins, my dad once again came through with his Old Man Cards (OMCs) to help ensure that I can have signed Orioles cards of any possible player for my collection. He really enjoys making them, and I really appreciate his help. In addition to making this card, he actually got it signed for me too, since Welington was with the Dominican World Baseball Classic team for the duration of my time in Sarasota this year. It must be nice to be semi-retired and be able to spend a month down there, hopefully I can live that life in another 30 years! But I won't complain about a short (mostly yearly) trip to balmy Florida!
Welington has played in both of the Orioles games so far, and is 3-7 at the plate and has looked solid behind it as well. He seems to have really meshed with the pitching staff, especially considering that he spent a large chunk of Spring Training away from the O's pitchers.
One interesting item that I came across while researching this post is that in 2015 Welington had been traded from the Mariners to the D'Backs for two other current Orioles, Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno. And now they all play in Baltimore together. Baseball is funny like that sometimes.