When two high school students created a website and Twitter account back in 2013, they devised a name meant to honor the hype video released by free agent Yoenis Céspedes two years earlier.
The 20-minute tour de force includes highlights of the Cuban star playing, working through drills and, finally, after the credits, footage of him roasting a pig over an open fire.
The Céspedes Family BBQ account now has over 142,000 followers. Friends Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman eventually spun the idea into media careers. They started by engaging with fans on Twitter and writing articles (eventually for MLB.com, The Ringer and DAZN) before moving on to do video for FOX and a podcast for Sirius XM radio. The two are set to host a live podcast event today at Section 771 — the bar formerly known as Sliders on Washington Boulevard (it is 771 feet from home plate at Camden Yards.)
Mintz and Shusterman became friends at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. Mintz is a Baltimore Orioles fan and Schusterman a Seattle Mariners fan.
Mintz is no stranger to the game as a player, either, pitching four seasons for Division III Washington University in St. Louis. He was even named to D3baseball.com’s All-Central Region Second Team and the all-UAA Second Team in his 2017 senior season — pitching to a 4-0 record and an 0.87 earned-run average in 31 innings as a left-handed reliever.
Shusterman didn’t play college baseball, finishing his baseball career in the 10th grade before attending the College of Wooster in Ohio.
Mintz and Shusterman recently spoke with The Baltimore Banner about their upcoming live show and what it means. They, of course, gave their takes on everything from Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman to manager Brandon Hyde, and also discussed general manager Mike Elias, John Angelos’ controversial offseason comments and The Adam Jones Podcast on The Baltimore Banner.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Baltimore Banner: What does it mean to have a live show in Baltimore, especially, Jake, as an Orioles fan? That seems to be a pretty big deal.
Jake Mintz: It’s kind of jarring — in a good way — [after] growing up right outside of D.C. My grandparents are from Baltimore, my mom is from Baltimore and I grew up going to Camden Yards before the Nats [Nationals] even existed. It’s pretty wild. [I’m] definitely excited for it and it’s one of those “pinch me” moments.
Jordan Shusterman: Jake, this is your Anthony Volpe moment. You’ve always dreamed of podcasting outside of Camden Yards.
JM: Yeah. As a little kid, I had pictures of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra on my wall. And I always wanted to be just like Gary Thorne and Kevin Brown. So, I’m following along in the footsteps of legends.
JS: Growing up in the D.C. area, I’m grateful to have a lot of family and friends around for this. The Orioles as a team in general, I’ve been following them through Jake over the last five years. It’s weird to think how the Orioles have changed over that span that we’ve been doing this together. I feel like it’s pretty cool to be doing something Orioles-adjacent or at least in Baltimore.
BB: What do you think of this current crop of Orioles? They have a number of prospects that fans are excited about. Adley Rutschman is already on the team and off to a hot start and you also have Grayson Rodriguez, Gunnar Henderson, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby, Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, DL Hall — the list seemingly goes on and on.
JM: The best part about Adley is that it’s just so bankable. There was certainly a bit of Matt Wieters PTSD within the Orioles fan base as Adley made his way up the chain. We’ve pretty much discovered that it will not be the case that this guy — not to say that Matt Weiters was a bad player or anything, but he did not reach the outrageous expectations that were set for him. Whereas, Adley has already surpassed them with his level of play over the first half season and opening day was comically ridiculous. You don’t see a situation in baseball where one player joins a team and completely changes their fortunes. That’s usually a basketball thing or a quarterback thing.
JS: Obviously, Adley is the most important one and hopefully, Grayson can be that on the pitching side, but it also gives you room for error. You know that they’re not all gonna work out. You kind of always have another one to keep looking at. Not all of the hopes rested on Adley. If it is all on him, he’s doomed. You have that taken care of. Now, it’s just all about which ones are going to be the best ones. When you have that many in the high minors in many cases and they just took Jackson [Holliday] first overall last year, it’s amazing.
BB: There’s a very large Jewish population in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and with Dean Kremer being a Jewish pitcher as well, for Baltimore to have a pitcher that represents Jewish athletes, what does that mean to you both?
JM: My uncle, who is an Orioles fan in his 70s, knows that Dean Kremer is Jewish. My family when I was growing up, we had Jewish baseball player card sets that we broke out every Passover. It wasn’t even just [Sandy] Koufax — you’d hear about Art Shamsky, blah, blah, blah and every Jew that played for the Orioles. Having a guy like Kremer around there is cool and I’ve talked to him a couple of times about his background and how different it is being a fluent Hebrew speaker in a big league clubhouse.
JS: Kremer is also an interesting one because I remember kind of reading and learning about him early in his prospect days. It was already a fascinating story then and to think that he would end up being a very important pitcher on the Orioles, Jake’s favorite team, it’s cool. It’s a couple examples like that across the league of how far X and Y has come and look at where they’re all at now, but [Kremer] is obviously a good example of that because I remember reading about him in rookie ball with the Dodgers. Then, he had a strong performance in the [World Baseball Classic]. He’s great … we’re obviously big fans.
BB: With the Orioles current lineup, you also have players like Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins that played in the WBC. How important do you believe that experience to be for both of them to play on their respective countries’ clubs and get that exposure they usually wouldn’t otherwise get, ahead of what could be a momentous season for the franchise?
JM: It’s a great point because there’s playing baseball and there’s playing baseball that matters in a win and loss column. Mullins and Santander got a taste of it last season, but you cannot replicate the energy of October or the WBC anywhere else. In learning how to play and learning how to succeed in that type of requirement, it requires a different level of poise and composure that you can’t just learn immediately. There’s a reason why the Astros have been to six consecutive ALCS. It’s not like Alex Bregman is nervous in the playoffs. He knows what it feels like.
JS: I would agree. You can extend that on the other side of the Orioles the other day — Masataka Yoshida for the Red Sox and just watching how his narrative changed when he signed with the Red Sox, to watching how he was playing in the WBC. A lot of people were like, “Hey, maybe this guy will be good.” I think it was pretty naive to ignore everything that he had done in Japan beforehand, but sometimes it’s pretty cool to see it in front of you to see it in front of big league parks, pitching and seeing how good these guys are. With Santander in particular, what a performance for him. That was a great example where everyone was like, “Who’s this guy?” He was pretty awesome last season!
BB: Much can be said about this rebuild that the Orioles are undertaking. You have the Dan Duquette era of the Orioles, where they were at the top of the division or close to it multiple times throughout the tenure. On the flip side of it, the farm system wasn’t up to snuff and the international signings were lacking. How has Mike Elias changed the framework of the organization with prospects, analytics and player development in your estimation?
JM: I think the most impressive and surprising element of it is the player development side. Because when Duquette left, Duquette was good at what Duquette was good at, but the Orioles were behind the eight ball in terms of their processes and systems. Elias had to start from scratch to bring the organization into the 21st century. We knew that they would make a little more analytical decisions and they’d be a little more ruthless, that they would trade any good players on the big league roster to aid the future. That was to be expected. What has been a pleasant surprise is how well they have developed hitters and how they’ve developed. Every single top hitter that they’ve drafted has gone to plan in the Elias era. They’ve taken a number of later-round guys like Norby and Ortiz and developed them into legitimate hitters.
JS: I think now that we enter the next chapter [with the Orioles], it’s just all about how we maximize these players on-field and possibly in trades. We all know you can’t play 25 position players at a time and they’ve made strides on pitching, although it’s a lot of guys that they’ve traded for other than Grayson. What was intriguing about last year was when you looked at the names of the pitching staff, but you’d see the numbers and go, “How is this possible?” Adley had some to do with that, but it was game-planning, pitch design and all of that stuff. They’re clearly catching up on stuff that they were clearly so far behind in.
BB: We’ve discussed the positives of the Orioles, but there have also been what some people call flubs by the front office of late. Some people may say, “Maybe they shouldn’t have sent down Grayson Rodriguez” or they may reference the controversial comments made by Orioles owner John Angelos saying that he’d show his finances and he hasn’t done that. Or the fact the Orioles don’t yet have a lease extension for Camden Yards. What are your thoughts on those issues and how that could negatively affect the Orioles?
JM: It is certainly a dark cloud that is lingering because as they’ve entered this phase of competitiveness, ownership has to be willing to invest in the team. It’s that simple. They have said that they want to model the Orioles around the Rays, the Brewers and the Guardians — none of those teams have won a World Series since 1948 when Cleveland won. I understand that it is the model of sustainable success. It’s also a model of being too thrifty for your own good. It’s tough because they traded away Trey Mancini and Mike Elias said, “This is liftoff” and, this offseason, they acquired a bunch of respectable, but underwhelming names. I think there’s a totally understandable level of skepticism in the fan base about whether or not this ownership group has the willingness or the ability and fortitude to get this thing done. There are other owners in baseball that are a little doofy at times with World Series rings. Jim Crane in Houston says a lot of silly crap, but he’s won two World Series because he’s spent a lot of money on the team.
JS: Unfortunately, it’s become all too common, not just with Baltimore, but with other markets. The tone of ownership is disappointing to say the least. But it is all laid too bare particularly with front offices in small markets that it’s just not their decision. At the same time, you’d like the messaging to be consistent and that’s what drives fans crazy. If you seem to be hinting at some step forward and then you do what you do, that’s fine. But don’t get upset at the fans for calling it out. Managing expectations is part of it. Mike Elias has so much trust in what they already have that he wants to add.
BB: Who are some of your all-time favorite Orioles?
JM: Let me turn the clock back. I’ll go Jesse Orosco, Buddy Groom, Robert Andino, Xavier Avery and Cal Ripken Jr.
JS: That’s a decent collection. I’m trying to think of guys for me because I didn’t have a personal attachment growing up. It’s more of who I was watching from afar 10 years ago when the Orioles were awesome. Adam Jones is the easy answer, even though he came from the Mariners. They’ve had so many fun relievers. When Brian Matusz was awesome, he was awesome. Darren O’Day was super fun. Then, the Steve Pearce run was amazing. I know he ultimately had a run with Boston, but in 2014, that was a special year for him [with Baltimore].
BB: Jordan, are you a big Chris Tillman guy as a Mariners fan?
JS: I really should’ve said Dylan Bundy because Chris Tillman, I never really had an attachment to him as a prospect in any way, but Bundy — I was obsessed with him. I was going to his starts in Delmarva and Bowie. I thought he was going to be the next big thing.
BB: Have you gotten a chance to listen to The Adam Jones Podcast for the Baltimore Banner?
JM: I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it just yet, but it’s such a no-brainer for him. I think when you look around the game at any given time, you’re like, “Which of these players are going to be in media?” I think Adam Jones was the layup of all layups. It was such a no-brainer — his charisma, his perspective, his insight, his intelligence — he’s seen so many things and knows so many people. I’m so glad that he’s sharing his perspective.
JS: I totally agree. He’s a guy where when you look at the body of his career with the Orioles, he was in Arizona, then once he went to Japan, you could tell that he was ready to very much share his experiences in an open way. That’s not to say he wasn’t before. He’s the perfect combination of someone who has lived a fascinating baseball life and someone who is entertaining himself. We love Adam for sure.
BB: What are your thoughts on Brandon Hyde’s tenure as Baltimore’s manager?
JM: I think that his interaction with Chris Davis was very telling a couple years ago. It’s probably an oversimplification, but Hyde emerged from that interaction as the victor and someone who handled it well in the eyes of the organization. When you’re losing 7,000 games a year, that sucks. What you need in that environment is different from what you need as a manager when you’re trying to win. He has shown the ability to do both. I like Brandon Hyde.
JS: We’re constantly trying to evaluate managers of teams with very different goals. That’s another situation where you don’t know how good he is until he’s managing an ALDS game. You’re like, “Oh my God Brandon. What are you doing?” Who knows? Maybe he’ll push all of the right buttons. I hope he does. The way he presents himself and talks about the team — he’s perfect. At the same time, who knows with managers.
BB: Both of you were former baseball players. If you had to pick one position to play in the MLB, which position would you play?
JM: Long reliever. You make a good living and you get to chill with your buds.
JS: That’s a good one. It’s gotta be a pitcher, especially some sort of bullpen role.
JM: Literally Garrett Stubbs.
JS: [Chuckles] Ohhh, yes. Backup catcher for an awesome catcher.
JM: James McCann has too many responsibilities for that to be the case right now. But whoever is the backup catcher for Adley in a few years.
JS: That’s a good one.
Kyle Andrews is a writer based in State College, Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore and Mount Saint Joseph High School.