For Michael Baumann, the Mahtomedi graduate in his third year pitching in the Baltimore Orioles organization, it’s been a season of thrills, honors and progress.
The 6-4, 225-pound right-hander was one of two hurlers sharing the Orioles Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year award, announced last week.
“It’s a great experience. I’m having a blast,” said Baumann, 24, reached by phone recently in Maryland. He also racked up a promotion, two other significant awards, and that most coveted pitching feat, a no-hitter, this summer.
Last Saturday, Baumann and the other pitcher, Grayson Rodriquez, along with Ryan Mountcastle, named top minor league position player, were honored in an on-field ceremony at Camden Yards prior to the Orioles game against the Seattle Mariners. Fans had an opportunity to meet them in a Q and A session on the Budweiser Roof Deck during batting practice. Baumann’s mother, Leslie, flew to Baltimore to be with him.
Baumann was named the Orioles’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month in July, playing for the Bowie Baysox in Maryland in the Eastern League, after moving up in June from Class A to AA. He posted a 1.38 ERA in five July starts, holding opponents to a .148 batting average and no homers.
The main highlight was his no-hitter with two walks against Harrisburg (PA) in a 6-0 win July 16. “First no-hitter I ever threw,” said Baumann, whose 95th pitch hit the corner for his 10th strikeout to finish the gem. He never got one in Little League, high school or college but achieved it in the second-highest level of the minor leagues.
The big club took notice. Baumann’s feat was featured in the Baltimore Sun. “He was nasty,” manager Buck Britton told the Sun. “That’s big league stuff tonight, for sure.”
Also fun: his former Zephyr teammate Sean Hjelle was pitching in the same league. A second-year pro in the San Francisco Giants chain, Hjelle (whom the Press featured in a previous article) was called up to Richmond (VA) on Aug. 8 from San Jose (CA).
“Our teams have played each other, but we haven’t gone head to head,” Baumann said. “Sean and I got together in Richmond when he came up. We’re both living the dream.”
They were visited in Richmond by Rob Garry, current Mahtomedi coach who was an assistant when Hjelle and Baumann led Mahtomedi to the 2014 state tournament.
“Obviously there is a lot of talent at their level, but after spending the four days watching them at their ‘job,’ it was pretty easy to see the difference between the guys that hope to get to the next level, and the guys willing to work for it,” Garry observed.
“These two guys understand that even though they are exceptionally talented and gifted, nothing will be given to them. They out-work most of their peers, and the results continue to prove that.”
Noting that each got a substantial signing bonus, the coach added, “Their bank account may have changed, but the individual has not, they are so impressive as people, players, and friends. It would be a dream come true for a lot of people to watch them at the highest level.”
In the regular season with Bowie, Baumann had a 6-2 record and 2.31 ERA in 70 innings, with 65 strikeouts and 20 walks, helping the Baysox win the East Division. In the playoffs, he pitched five strong innings (two runs) in a win over Richmond to help Bowie win that series, and gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings in a loss to Trenton (NJ) in 6-2 loss in the championship series, won by Trenton 3-1.
Baumann got the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week award for Aug. 8-14 in recognition of a four-hit, 1-0 shutout of Richmond with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“My fastball — it’d low to mid 90’s — and slider, are my best pitches,” he said. “I’m working on my curve and change-up.” The minor league pitching coaches, he said, preach “being consistent, that’s the biggest thing, that and developing secondary pitches.”
Baumann was drafted in the third round by the Orioles in 2017, after three college seasons with Jacksonville (FL), where he posted a 16-8 career record. In his last season, he was 5-3 with a 3.09 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 87 innings.
In the Orioles chain, he’s climbed from Aberdeen in 2017 to Delmarva and Frederick in 2018, then Frederick and now Bowie in 2019. All are cities in Maryland. At Frederick this year, he struck out 77 batters in 54 innings, posting a 3.83 ERA and 1-4 record, and was called up to Bowie on June 16.
Asked where he lives during the season — minor league ballplayers can’t sign any six-month apartment leases — he explained, “The teams provide host families to stay with, and I live out of my car a lot, too. That’s where all my belongings are.” He drives a Jeep Cherokee.
The former Zephyr is two rungs below the big leagues, with a good chance to move up another level next year. Asked how much he ponders the possibilities, he said, “You just control what you can control, and put yourself in best position you can.”