Bowie, Maryland– With record high temperatures that lingered for the evening game, the Baysox were scheduled to take on the Akron Aeros in a 6:35PM showdown at Prince George’s Stadium. There was a different excitement in the air at this game though. It was not regarding standings or even necessarily a win. Fans were there for some other reason. Through the sweltering heat, fans saw a mirage emerge from a clubhouse oasis. As the figure became clear, it was obvious that this was not a mirage. This was Nick Markakis and he was back in uniform for the first time since he underwent surgery to remove a broken hamate bone. Previously it was reported that Markakis had been playing catch but had not been cleared to swing a bat. Tonight was the test to see whether he was still the same Nick Markakis or whether with his hamate bone, some mojo was also removed.
Starting in right field and batting 2nd in the lineup, the crowd (while meager), offered a hearty cheer for Markakis as his name was announced during his first at bat. As he dug in, people collectively quieted down to see if Markakis was really as good as new. After fighting off several pitches and attempting to work the count, Markakis was called out looking in his first at-bat. Immediately, fans chirped in with managerial takes that they could have only learned by studying ESPN, YouTube clips or Little League. “He’ll never been the same. The man’s missing a bone,” some stadium-goer offered. As anyone with an objective mind knows though, one at bat really is not an accurate depiction of a batter.
When Markakis came up in the 3rd inning, the cheers had died down substantially. I don’t know whether this was frustration over the prior strikeout or the fact that people were simply melting. After getting ahead in the count 3-0, Markakis jumped all over a pitch from Aeros’ pitcher Steven Wright sending a towering two-run blast to right field. After drawing a walk on 6 pitches in the 5th inning, magic happened again in the 7th inning as Markakis unloaded another two-run shot to right field. When all we said and done, Markakis ended up going 2 for 3, with 2 HR and 4 RBIs in his first rehab start.
The Baysox, coming off a sweep by the Senators have needed a boost of confidence. Markakis delivered in a big way. With his assistance, the Baysox recorded the 7-1 win over the visiting Akron Aeros. Watching Nick Markakis play, it becomes obvious that he is the cohesive that holds a lineup together. Whether his glove is on display or whether he is driving in runners in scoring position, he usually can get it done.
Most Orioles fans have openly recognized the abilities of Nick Markakis but his value became overwhelmingly apparent recently. The Orioles have dropped 16 games since Markakis left the lineup on June 1st and Showalter has been hard pressed to fill the void in right field. In the lineup, he adds power and reliability (generally), which is something the Orioles have been lacking. At the rehab start, Markakis did not appear to be playing cautiously but as intensely as he would if he were at Camden Yards. After the game, Markakis indicated to reporters that there was some discomfort; however it was to be expected. Markakis is still starting two more games in Bowie and may play additional rehab games with another affiliate if necessary. Today though, his offensive abilities were on full display and Orioles fans are reminded that the golden goose will return to the flock soon.