SARASOTA, Fla. — As Jorge Mateo watched the skyward trajectory of the ball leaping off his bat, his parents, sitting on the bench nearby and paying rapt attention to their son’s batting practice session, swung their heads in unison to follow the sailing ball.
When it finally crested, began its downward slope and settled beyond the fence of field two at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex, Mateo’s mother, Reina Rosa, yelled out: “¡Vamanos!”
On the back fields Thursday, Mateo’s parents had their first opportunity to watch their son during spring training. They’ve seen the Orioles shortstop play professionally before, and Mateo had just spent the offseason with his family in the Dominican Republic. But having them close again “is really important for me,” Mateo said.
Mateo established himself last season as an electrifying fielder and baserunner, swiping 35 bases while creating oodles of web gems. He enters the 2023 season as the presumed starting shortstop for a Baltimore team facing increased expectations.
So to have his parents, Reina Rosa and Salvador Vicioso, nearby serves as a boost ahead of the first Grapefruit League game Saturday. And it gave him an extra pop in his bat.
“When you grow up, you do a different life than your parents, separately,” Mateo said. “But I want to be close to my family every time, because you never know when you’re going to leave this world.”
Mateo’s parents will spend two weeks with him in Sarasota, where they’ll watch him hit and field, then get dinner or cook together at the end of the day.
Now, because both of his parents have visas, they can come visit more frequently. But in previous years, Mateo saw his family most in the offseason. His mother hadn’t been to the U.S. since 2017 or 2018, Mateo said.
“But she’s here now,” Mateo said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Before Mateo returned to Florida for spring training, he pitched the idea to his parents to come for a bit. He has three younger brothers, including Luis Vicioso, a 19-year-old catcher who signed with the Orioles this winter.
“I want my younger brothers to have the example of what to do,” Mateo said. “So when they’re in this place, too, they can feel comfortable to bring their parents, too, and spend time with their parents.”
Rom will start Grapefruit League opener
Manager Brandon Hyde said right-hander Drew Rom will start Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Minnesota Twins. Eduard Bazardo, Wandisson Charles, Cole Uvila, Chris Vallimont, Ofreidy Gómez and Morgan McSweeney will also pitch for the Orioles as part of a lineup that likely won’t include many regulars.
By Monday, Hyde said, he expects more position players who were starters last year to begin featuring. Outfielders Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins — who will leave camp March 6 to join Venezuela and the U.S., respectively, for the World Baseball Classic — will be in the lineup and play every other day.
The Orioles selected Rom in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. The 23-year-old combined to make 26 appearances between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk last year, managing a 4.43 ERA and a 1.475 WHIP in 120 innings.
MASN to broadcast four games
Only four Orioles spring training games will be televised, beginning with the March 6 game against the Philadelphia Phillies on MASN. Fans can tune into the action from Saturday’s Grapefruit opener on 97.9 FM, the flagship station for the Orioles Radio Network, for the 1:05 p.m. first pitch.
There will also be a radio feed for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 p.m. Then Baltimore won’t be on radio until March 3, March 4 and March 5. After the March 6 televised game, the Orioles will wait until March 18 to be back on TV, with another televised game March 21 and March 27 — the last of which is the spring training finale.