Orioles manager Brandon Hyde’s ability to get more from his players stems from his life in the minors

The Orioles were still scuffling a couple games under .500 when they rolled through St. Louis last May.

Future franchise icon Adley Rutschman was still in the minor leagues — he’d been promoted to Triple-A just a few days earlier — and the idea that a version of that team would spend most of the next summer owning the best record in the American League would have seemed downright laughable. 

Sitting there in the visitor’s dugout at Busch Stadium, I asked Brandon Hyde, the manager, to give me a scouting report on Brandon Hyde, the player. After he stopped laughing, he gave me the breakdown.

“I would say 50 defender, 50 power, 30 hit, 40 run, 50 arm,” he said, deliberating each grade for a moment before passing judgment on himself. 

And his best quality as a player? “I was a great teammate,” he deadpanned.

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Hyde was primarily a catcher, though he played some first base. An undrafted free agent out of Long Beach State, Hyde spent all but 16 games of his career playing either Class A or Rookie League ball; he hit .130 in his nine games for Triple-A Charlotte in 2000.He spent a lot of his time backing up guys considered better prospects but showed a good eye at the plate, finishing with a .375 career on-base percentage in 183 games. 

As with many future managers, though, the experience gained and relationships developed were invaluable. And it was what he said next that struck me as I listened to the interview again a few weeks ago. 

“I was an organizational guy that played for some really good coaches who liked having me on the club, I think. I bounced around a bit throughout the White Sox organization,” he said. “I honestly wish I had a little different mindset as a player. I wish I had more of a … I feel like I got too comfortable in that role and wished that I would have pushed the envelope and tried to see myself more as an everyday player. I was an undrafted free-agent sign who came from Long Beach State that played at a high level in college, so I felt like I just wanted to play pro ball as long as I could, instead of being more driven to get to the big leagues.”

Looking back, Hyde regrets not asking — and getting — more from himself as a player. But when you look at his Orioles today, and the success they’re having, it’s pretty clear that’s a lesson his players have taken to heart. Ask more, get more. 

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Because, sure, these first-place Orioles have top draft picks, guys like Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez. But the roster is full of guys who worked their way to exceed expectations, like Cedric Mullins (13th-round pick), Anthony Santander (Rule 5 draft pick) and Jorge Mateo (signed off waivers). Closer Felix Bautista signed to play pro ball in 2012 and didn’t make his MLB debut until 2022. 

Ask more, get more.

“I think that’s where Brandon fits this team so well,” said Harold Reynolds, the MLB Network Analyst who played for the Orioles in 1993. “You’ve got to have a guy who can identify with that. You look around and you see successful guys like David Ross and Buck Showalter. Even Bruce Bochy.”

As Reynolds sees it, the continuity Hyde has provided in the dugout through the sudden worst-to-first process — remember, the O’s lost 110 games in 2021 and topped 100 wins this year — has been important as the front office, led by GM Mike Elias, worked behind the scenes. 

“I’ve always said the No. 1 most important relationship in any organization is the GM and the manager,” Reynolds said. “So when you go into it knowing, ‘Hey, we’re in a process, and here’s what our plan is,’ then it’s easy to be on the same page. That helps.”

There is one thing Hyde, the player, accomplished in the minors that these Orioles would love to emulate: Winning a championship. Hyde won two in the minors, the 1998 Appalachian League title (Rookie League) and the 1999 Midwest League crown (Class A). 

“That was cool,” he said with a grin.

Still, those aren’t what Hyde treasures most from his days as a player. 

“For me, the minor leagues were more about the relationships you make. I still have friends from my minor-league days,” he said. “You become close with the guys you ride the bus with for 14 hours from Jacksonville to Jackson, Tennessee. For me, it’s more about the relationships I made, and because of that it gave me a chance to coach in the minor leagues to start out. I have fond memories of the people I was around.”

Winning the 2023 World Series title would create some pretty fond memories, too. That might have seemed impossible on that day in May 2022 in St. Louis, sure. 

But … ask more, get more.

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