Joey Rickard has been an unlikely hero for the Orioles at the outset of the 2016 season. Consider what we’ve seen for him so far.
- Rickard has hit safely in all seven games as the O’s have gotten off to the best start in team history. His is the longest hit streak for any Orioles rookie to start a season.
- He hit his first major league home run and got a curtain call for it.
- He’s had fans at Camden Yards chanting his name, “Jo-ey, Jo-ey.”
The surprising emergence of Rickard, the Rule 5 hero, got me to thinking about past unlikely stars in Baltimore. The name that came to mind most immediately was Jeff Manto.
Jeff “Mickey” Manto was a flash in the pan in Baltimore, but boy was he sizzling when he started his lone season as an Oriole in 1995.
The journeyman appeared in his first game for the O’s on May 4, 1995, as a pinch hitter for Sherman Obando. He struck out. However, by the end of action on June 9, Manto had a .315/.344/.629 slash line with eight home runs and 20 RBI in 93 plate appearances. He had consecutive two-homer games on June 8 and June 9. The Orioles promoted him as a write-in candidate for the All-Star Game on the ballpark Jumbotron that summer.
None of this is to say that Rickard has a similar makeup as Manto or that he’s going to be a flash in the pan. Manto is simply the guy who comes to mind for me when I think of unlikely Orioles heroes. Who comes to mind for you?