Only a certain kind of person can successfully coin a nickname. Anyone can snatch a title out of nonexistence and slap it onto a body, but select few can get it to stick.

Ben McDonald can imbue that staying power. The former Orioles pitcher and current Mid-Atlantic Sports Network broadcaster can turn a phrase — “That’s dirtier than a Bourbon Street martini!” — and his voice carries weight in this town. So, when he invents a nickname, it lands.

“Ever since I’ve ever been around a baseball field, even when I was a kid, nobody ever really went by their real name,” McDonald said. “Everybody had nicknames. And so you just nickname everybody that was out there.”

McDonald is, of course, frequently referred to by his nickname, “Big Ben,” on account of his 6-foot-7 frame. But Cal Ripken Jr. tagged the No. 1 overall pick in the 1989 draft with another, less favorable label during his rookie season.

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“When I first came to the big leagues, I was 21 years old, he called me ‘Goony,’” McDonald said. “He said I was long and lanky and I was kinda goony, and to this day he still calls me that.”

McDonald’s knack for hatching monikers is especially valuable as he broadcasts a young team whose players are making names for themselves in Major League Baseball.

“Baseball is such a repetitive game in the broadcast booth,” McDonald said. “It’s the same game almost every day. I just try to come up with terms and ways to say things maybe a little bit differently just so it’s not robotic every time.”

Here’s how McDonald concocted his catchiest nicknames.

‘The Milkman’ (Colton Cowser)

McDonald coined the newest and arguably most popular name on this list in the midst of Cowser’s early-season hot streak, when the outfielder smacked four home runs in a four-game span.

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“I was always a fan of the milkman when I was a kid,” said McDonald, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “It sounds stupid, but when I was 8 years old, they used to deliver milk to the house. And the Kleinpeter milk guy would come by, and I would wait for the milkman to pull up in his cool truck I thought at the time. He’d get out with a crate of milk; he’d drop it off at the front door. I’d go pick it up and put it inside the icebox in the house.”

O’s fans began a grassroots movement on opening day, mooing when Cowser came to bat. Then the rookie got hot. McDonald knew he had a chance to tap into something.

“I told Kevin [Brown] before the game, I said, “Next time he gets a big knock, I’m going ‘And ‘The Milkman’ always delivers!’’” he said.

The connection is a logical one — Cowser, cow, milk, milkman. Still, the 24-year-old said he’d never received a milk-related nickname before. But he approves of “The Milkman.”

“I think, after a game, he was like, ‘What do you think about it?’” Cowser said. “I was like, ‘It’s cool. I’m cool with it.’”

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Sometimes McDonald runs his nicknames by a player first; sometimes he doesn’t. Reliever Jacob Webb didn’t even know he’d been called “Everyday” by the broadcaster, due to Webb’s eagerness to pitch on a near-nightly basis. But, when the name is complimentary, it’s hard to protest.

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Felix Bautista (74) gets ready to pitch in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on August 10, 2023.
Injured closer Félix Bautista is an imposing figure on the mound, and “The Mountain” fit naturally for him. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

‘The Mountain’ (Félix Bautista)

The injured Orioles closer is one of a few players — nay, people — who looms over McDonald. So McDonald gave Bautista the nickname “for the obvious reason.”

“I’m 6-7,” McDonald said. “But, when I stood next to Bautista for the first time, it’s 6-8 and it’s 280 lbs. or whatever, and I thought to myself, ‘This dude is like a mountain.’ So it became ‘The Mountain.’”

McDonald borrowed the title from the popular show “Game of Thrones,” in which actor and strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson portrays an impossibly humungous brute. “Big Ben” got into the show late, but he figured the name was fitting for one of the most physically imposing figures in baseball.

Shortstop Gunnar Henderson is “The Kid” in McDonald's lexicon. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

‘The Kid’ (Gunnar Henderson)

Many players have sported this nickname over the years. Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has been associated with it the most.

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But McDonald felt it was appropriate for Henderson, who made his big league debut in August 2022, just two months after his 21st birthday.

Even though infielder Jackson Holliday, another No. 1 prospect, is playing his rookie season at just 20 years old, Henderson “will always be ‘The Kid’” to McDonald.

First baseman Ryan O’Hearn turns on the ball when he swings and then burns up the basepaths, leading to “Turn-and-Burn O'Hearn.” (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

‘Turn-and-Burn O’Hearn’ (Ryan O’Hearn)

O’Hearn hasn’t been an Oriole long — the veteran came to Baltimore via a cash considerations trade before last season — but has quickly endeared himself to fans with his stellar hitting and team-first attitude.

It was O’Hearn’s powerful lefty swing that gave McDonald the idea for this wordy moniker.

“It’s weird how it came up,” McDonald recounted. “Last year, when he got a hit, he just turned on a fastball inside, I went, ‘Ooh, he turned on that one.’ And, when he went down the line, I went ‘Hey, it’s ‘Turn-and-Burn O’Hearn!’’”

The endurance of each of these nicknames is dependent on each player’s ability to stay productive. But McDonald, just like the milkman, always delivers.

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