20. Matt Wieters comes to Baltimore – May 29, 2009
His college teammates called him “God.”
There was MattWietersFacts.com.
One national baseball writer called him the best player on the Orioles and “quite possibly the best catcher in the game” even though he was still in the minor leagues.
After nearly two years of unparalleled hype and producing historic minor league numbers in 2008, the phenomenon known as Matt Wieters made his debut on a Friday night in late May against the Detroit Tigers.
He symbolized a turning point for an Orioles team in the midst of its 12th straight losing season. Even a rainbow arched over the Warehouse, signifying a baseball savior’s arrival.
Receiving more buzz than any Orioles prospect since pitcher Ben McDonald in 1989, Wieters made his big league debut in a 7-2 win at Camden Yards. Hitting seventh and going 0 for 4, the rookie did nothing special on the field but drew standing ovations seemingly with every move. It was an electric atmosphere as three days’ notice of his debut attracted more than 42,000 fans who wanted to see history.
Of course, Wieters has yet to reach the superstardom so many predicted — and expected — causing this moment to flounder lower on the list than many would have thought on that special night two years ago. The man, not the “messiah” or “Mauer with power,” has fallen short of the mania, but labeling him one of the most disappointing prospects of all time seems premature.
Time will skew whether Wieters’ debut climbs to a greater position in Camden Yards lore or is simply remembered as a painful instance of unfounded promise.
But for anyone who was there, the real-life debut of a figure hyped as Superman, fairly or not, will never be forgotten.