Ryan Mountcastle walked the length of the dugout high-fiving teammates, but his eyes were focused on James McCann at the far end and his mind on the task still at hand.
The Orioles first baseman slugged his first home run at Camden Yards this season, conquering the imposing left field wall with a blast that sailed off his bat at 106.7 mph and flew 421 feet. The swing put Baltimore ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the first inning Monday night, setting the stage for the Orioles’ 5-1 series-opening victory.
Mountcastle, though, had a vital task to still complete: unveil the Orioles’ new home run celebration, one gulp at a time.
McCann lifted a beer bong, began pouring a water bottle into the funnel, and Mountcastle crouched as he began chugging the water — yes, only water — as a reward for his long ball.
“We’re just huge proponents of staying hydrated,” catcher Adley Rutschman said.
The search for a name for the celebration took off during the game. Was it the home run funnel, as play-by-play announcer Kevin Brown called it on air for Mid-Atlantic Sports Network? Was it the hydration station, as Brown later intoned? Or was it the dong bong, or any number of other semi-PG descriptions for the newest celebration?
“It’s the homer hose, not a dong bong,” right-hander Kyle Gibson clarified. “It’s a homer hose, just like as a kid, you take a drink from the water hose after you play outside, playing whiffle ball. You have a ‘turn the water on’ celebration when you hit a single. We’ve got a sprinkler when you hit an extra-base hit. And it’s a homer hose when you hit a homer.”
The homer hose was the brainchild of left-handers Cole Irvin and Keegan Akin. Irvin got the actual funnel and hose, and Akin helped personalize it for the Orioles. He covered the blue hose with black tape. Then he added orange tape to stripe it.
The only major change Akin feels he needs to make is cutting the hose down, making it easier for his teammates to chug. And how do they clean it?
“We’ve got to get there,” Akin said. “Tonight was a round one experiment. We weren’t expecting to get use out of it the first night, but glad we did. So we’ll have to brainstorm that idea. I’ll talk to my partner and figure out how to clean it. Not supposed to put your mouth on it. That’s rule No. 1. But clearly, that didn’t happen.”
The unveiling is an important step for Baltimore’s clubhouse and dugout chemistry and camaraderie. Last year, with Rougned Odor as the originator, the Orioles enjoyed donning the home run chain — a gold chain with an Orioles logo hanging from it, reserved for players who went yard.
This year, the celebration will be something more … college-esque.
There were a slew of potential chuggers Monday, especially as the left field wall gobbled up potential home runs from Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Rutschman. Hays’ shot, which traveled 382 feet and left his bat at 105.5 mph, would’ve been a home run in every ballpark but Camden Yards.
But Rutschman soon slugged it over the left field wall with his third-inning homer off left-hander JP Sears, his second in as many games and his first this year as a right-handed hitter. Then Rutschman chugged it when he reached the end of the dugout.
“I wasn’t there for Mountie’s first one when he did it, so I got in the dugout and they’re waiting for me at the end, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is hilarious,’” Rutschman said. “It was day one, and I think it went well.”
And when Hays found his way out of the yard against right-hander Jeurys Familia in the sixth inning, he also grabbed the hose, lifted it to his lips and drank from the fountain of plenty (of homers).
Those three homers paved the way for right-hander Kyle Gibson, who allowed a run in a 30-pitch first inning but settled down to complete 6 1/3 frames. He’s still the lone Orioles starter to pitch into the seventh inning this season, completing seven innings against the Texas Rangers before his one-run effort Monday.
Gibson’s sweeper was especially effective, inducing seven whiffs on 15 swings.
“I think it’s been a weapon, obviously,” Gibson said. “But I think the rest of my arsenal allows that to play up a little bit. When Adley and I are able to recognize a team’s plan, or a hitter’s plan, we’re able to make adjustments throughout the game.”
But the strike zone of home plate umpire Malachi Moore received plenty of criticism throughout the evening. There were also two bang-bang plays that didn’t go the Orioles’ way, once on a challenge to determine whether Jorge Mateo beat out a throw to first (the out call stood as called) and again when the umpiring crew deemed Jace Peterson eluded Adam Frazier’s tag at second for a double.
And in the seventh inning, when Moore struck out outfielder Cedric Mullins on a pitch above the zone, tempers boiled over.
On Mullins’ walk back to the dugout, Moore ejected him. Mullins circled back to Moore and offered an earful, and manager Brandon Hyde raced out to bark at Moore, too. Hyde received the 10th ejection of his managerial career.
“I thought he was a little early [in ejecting Mullins],” Hyde said. “We had a few calls not go our way tonight that I thought was unfortunate, and thought we had a couple yesterday not go our way also. Was kind of tired of things not going out way.”
Added Mullins: “I was just making my thoughts clear to him about some of the calls that he had missed throughout the day, and I had my back turned to him completely. Just wanted to let it be known.”
After all that yelling, Mullins and Hyde might’ve needed a drink. But they didn’t get to take it from the beer bong-turned homer celebration. That’s saved for the long ball.
Hitting home runs, after all, is thirsty work.
“Hopefully they clean it,” Mullins said, “and I get a taste of it later.”