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After Showalter was fired in Texas, 32 managerial jobs opened up before he was hired in Baltimore. He immediately began logging observations in his notebook. Only some things needed immediate attention; one time he pulled a player into his office after a game—stopwatch in hand and tape cued up—to watch the video of a lackluster effort running to first base. The point was not to embarrass the player but to let him know such lapses could cost him the support of his teammates.
Another time Showalter made certain that the Orioles were aware of comments made by pitcher Matt Garza, then with the Rays, who vowed payback against Baltimore after the Orioles roughed him up. It was classic bulletin board gamesmanship, and Showalter, who served as an apprentice under Martin with the Yankees, was from a school whose graduates would have bunted up the first base line just for the chance to collide with Garza.
But Showalter heard nothing in his dugout. "He's sticking it to us, and they're taking it," Showalter says. "Really? Really? You've got your finger on the trigger—fire it! Make them adjust to you. That's one thing I kept telling them last year: Let's not constantly be reacting. Let's take it to them."
Says MacPhail, "I never dreamed he would have the impact he did just by walking through the door."
The Orioles played .305 baseball before Showalter and .596 with him. They became interesting again. Telecasts suddenly became the most-watched show in Baltimore on some nights, beating network prime-time lineups. Although attendance declined 9% for the year at Camden Yards, local viewership rose 10%.
"We have to tap into their passion to get them to come to the ballpark," Showalter says. "I don't want to hear Yankees fans and Red Sox fans at our ballpark.
"We've done enough to take that trust away. And I take the fans' trust very seriously. It may sound hokey, but that's why we do this. And I tell the guys, 'I don't want to hear it. You're in Seattle, it's 12:30 at night back in Baltimore and somebody is sitting in front of the TV living and dying with everything you're doing. And you better take that seriously.'"
Before a recent game in Sarasota, Showalter found out that the visiting Pirates were not taking pregame batting practice, so he changed the Orioles' schedule to have his team hit after the gates opened, so early-arriving fans had something to watch.
During spring training he is in bed by nine and at work before six. He makes sure to shave on the days he has to cut a player. And he takes delight in seeing signs of progress. "I have an emotional moment every day where a guy gets it," Showalter says. "Every day that goes by, I say, 'Really? How great is this?'"
Asked if he has changed since he last managed, Showalter replies, "Hell, yeah. We all have. We're a product of things we've been exposed to over the years."