Bottom of the 9th. Tie game. One out and a runner on at second. The batter steps into the box. The pitcher sets. The batter takes, ball, Cutter, up and away. Not where he wants it. He wants to tag something. Step out, practice swing. Keep the juices going. Step back into the box. Pitcher sets again. Winds and delivers. Mid stride, The hitter’s eyes light up. It’s another Cutter, but he missed his spot. Now it’s in his. It’s now or never. He swings. He’s under it but a bit early. It’s hugging the line. The hitter is mentally screaming for the fair call as he moves toward first. Clunk. It hits the wall the left of the yellow line. The crowd is deafening. The runner at second crosses home. The dugout empties. The hitter has no idea what’s going on. The first baseman, a unit of a man, lifts him in the air. He won the game. Nate McLouth’s feet touch the ground, ready to do it again.
In 2012, the Orioles were in desperate need for a left fielder. They were in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. They needed something that didn’t resemble a black hole. Xavier Avery, L.J. Hoes, Lew Ford, and Steve Tolleson are just some the players on the laundry list of Left Fielders that the O’s tried out. It wasn’t until August that they got so far down the list that Nate McLouth got his shot.
McLouth was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000 right out of high school. He was hit or miss with the Pirates but everything seemed to click in 2008 when he hit .276 and lead the league with 46 doubles. That earned him a trip to the All-Star game and a Gold Glove. Next season, The Pirates did what any middling team would do with an above-average player, they traded him to a contender, the Atlanta Braves. It broke him.
“It was the only place I ever played,” said McLouth said of the trade. “I played at every level of the minor leagues there. … And as long as it had been since the organization had won, I was really enjoying the process of trying to help turn that around and being a part of that.”
Injuries plagued McClouth in Atlanta and his eventual return to Pittsburgh. They eventually landed him the Orioles’ Triple A affiliate.
“Triple-A is not where you want to be as a player, obviously. But it was a really, really good experience for me because I just got back to just having fun and playing instead of working,” McLouth said of his time there.
A what a time he had. Come August and he was crushing the ball, he forced the Orioles hands. They could call him up or he could opt out.
“I think a good word for Nate is ‘overcomer.’” McLouth’s father said. “Buck likes saying that if you get your nose bloodied, you’ve got to go back out there. Well, Nate’s gotten knocked out, knocked right off his feet, and he keeps getting back up.”
McLouth would become a staple in Left Field for the rest of the season and the following one. Hitting about .260 with 43 doubles and 19 homeruns.
But it wasn’t just in the field he dominated. By all accounts, McLouth was an absolute beacon of positivity in the clubhouse and the field.
“I feel like he’s always got it under control. I feel like he knows something we don’t,” Former teammate Chris Davis said. “You watch him go about his work, and he obviously works very hard, but it just doesn’t seem like anything fazes him. And that’s huge in this game.”
Even his teammates who had a hard time understanding English loved him. McLouth is fluent in Spanish, accent and all. No, seriously. Alexi Casilla jokingly refered to him as ‘Manuel Peralta’.
The Orioles and McLouth parted ways after the 2013 season after he signed with the Washington Nationals. But he couldn’t find the magic that made his tenure in Baltimore as magical. He hasn’t signed with a club after the 2014 season.
In 2012 after his call up with the Orioles, they considered batting him lead off. To which McLouth responded with: “I’ve done it before. And I literally don’t care where I bat in the order. It doesn’t affect me one way or the other.”
Water off a duck’s back. The Nate McLouth Special.
Connolly, Dan. “A renewed McLouth finds himself with O’s” The Baltimore Sun; Baltimore, Md. 30 Sep 2012
Connolly, Dan. “O’s expect ‘really good’ version of McLouth: Left fielder says he’s moved past last year’s early troubles; Orioles Spring Training” The Baltimore Sun; Baltimore, Md. 20 Mar 2013
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