‘It’s the world of the unknown’: Reliever Keegan Akin returns to the Orioles as a new dad

Published 4/20/2023 5:30 a.m. EDT

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Keegan Akin (45) throws during the eighth inning of an baseball game against the New York Yankees, Saturday, April 8, 2023, in Baltimore.

WASHINGTON — The days blurred into one another, with the only distinction for Keegan and Jackie Akin coming in the form of a before and after time marker. There would be no before again, not after Jackie gave birth to the couple’s first child early Sunday morning in Michigan.

They welcomed Karson into their lives, a healthy boy, and then spent much of the next two days in a sleepless wonder. They got up out of bed, even when Karson didn’t make any noise at all. Perhaps the lack of noise, actually, drove the Orioles left-handed relief pitcher out of bed faster than anything.

“When they tell you you’re going to get up and look at him and make sure he’s still breathing, it’s a real thing,” Akin said Wednesday in the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. “You’re just worried, I guess. First one, so you just don’t know. It’s the world of unknown. I was always told you’re never, ever going to be ready enough, or be prepared enough, and I would tell anybody that in the future.”

The weeks leading up to the birth of Karson were difficult for both Keegan and Jackie. His wife stayed in Rockford, Michigan, where the couple lives in the offseason, while Akin traveled around the country pitching for the Orioles.

Jackie planned on being induced so her husband could ensure he’d be there for the birth of their son. He joined Baltimore’s paternity list on Thursday and spent the weekend in Michigan with his wife and newborn. But the paternity list doesn’t allow for a player to miss more than three games; before he knew it, Akin said so long to Jackie and Karson and rejoined the Orioles.

Both of their families live near Rockford, giving Jackie a solid support system. And in a few weeks, once a routine is established with Karson, Jackie will join Keegan in Baltimore. Still, there was a sense of guilt, Akin said, as he left his wife and newborn to play baseball.

That is, until his head hit the pillow.

“Glad to be back and on a normal sleep schedule,” Akin laughed, “as selfish as that sounds.”

Since returning, many of the clubhouse conversations have revolved around parenthood. It’s a young team, but Danny Coulombe and Austin Hays each have two children. Austin Voth and his wife welcomed their first child this offseason. And when manager Brandon Hyde welcomed Akin back into the bullpen mix, he told him “he gets 15% stronger once you have a child.”

“It’s dad strength,” Hyde said. “So I’m expecting him to come out and throw about 98 his next time out.”

Voth feels fortunate his child was born in the offseason, allowing him more time to spend with his wife and daughter. He remembers being up throughout the night, though, just as Keegan and Jackie were — and will be for quite some time.

“We were up probably every other hour,” Voth said. “It sucks in the moment, that first 24 hours trying to figure everything out as a new mom and dad, but you start to kind of figure it out.”

As opposed to the months Voth had, Akin’s time with Jackie and Karson can be measured in hours. He’ll miss some valuable practice on diapers, Voth said, but will catch up in time.

While Jackie and Karson stay in Michigan for the next few weeks, Akin will try to get major league hitters out. He always pitched for more than himself, thinking of Jackie and his family, too. And now there’s Karson.

“It adds a little bit to that,” Akin said. “A little bit more to play for.”

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