NO. 1 RUTSCHMAN HAS BIG FUTURE
CORVALLIS — There was Adley Rutschman on the MLB Network, flanked by family, friends and teammates, beaming as the Baltimore Orioles made him the No. 1 pick in the draft on Monday.
It was a seminal moment for the junior catcher of Oregon State, who hopes to parlay the occasion into further growth as a player and greatness as a big-leaguer.
That's exactly what the man who recruited Rutschman to OSU — Pat Casey — predicts will happen.
"I see him hitting 30 to 35 homers (a season) in the big leagues and being a multiple-time All-Star," said Casey, Rutschman's coach his first two years as a Beaver who was brought in as an analyst by MLB Network for its draft coverage.
The experts expect it won't take long before Rutschman, 21, makes his mark with the Orioles.
"I believe he'll move through their system quickly and help the club as soon as 2021," said Joe Girardi, the former major league catcher who managed the New York Yankees from 2008-17 and also worked the draft for MLB Network.
At Goss Stadium, Rutschman watched his name called with his parents, Randy and Carol, sister Josie and Ad Rutschman, his grandfather and mentor, along with teammates and coaches in the players' lounge.
Adley said he didn't know Baltimore was choosing him until he received a call "a couple of minutes" prior to the selection being announced on MLB Network.
And when he got the word?
"It was a rush of emotions," he said, smiling. "Exactly what I expected.
"It's a true honor to be selected No. 1 overall. It's one of those things you dream about."
Rutschman said it was probably in about third grade when the idea of making a living playing baseball popped into his mind.
"Then you get a little older and realize how few people get to play professional baseball — it's rare," he said. "But when I got to Oregon State, it was one of those dreams that got reborn."
The switch-hitting Rutschman burst into prominence as a sophomore last season in leading Oregon State to the College World Series championship. Rutschman, who .408 with nine home runs and 83 RBIs for the season, was named the Most Outstanding Player at Omaha, setting the CWS record with 17 hits and knocking in 13 runs in eight games.
The Sherwood native was even better this season, leading the Pac-12 with a .411 average with 17 homers and a .575 on-base percentage. Rutschman was named Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year for the Pac-12 and is Collegiate Baseball's National Player of the Year.
And now he's the No. 1 pick in the draft, in line for a bonus of a record $8.4 million.
"It's unbelievable to look back on how I was as a kid, seeing what my expectations were and how far I've come from there," Rutschman said. "It's special."
Rutschman is the third Oregon State athlete to be a No. 1 draft pick. Quarterback Terry Baker, the 1962 Heisman Trophy winner, went No. 1 in football in 1963. Forward Danny Mwanga was chosen first in the 2010 Major League Soccer draft.
Point guard Gary Payton, the national player of the year as a senior in 1989-90, went No. 2 in the 1990 NBA draft.
Second baseman Nick Madrigal was taken by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth pick in the 2018 draft, the highest an OSU baseball player had gone before Rutschman.
Rutschman said he had met with representatives of all 30 major-league teams over the course of the year.
"I knew the Orioles would be first overall," he said. "As the year progressed, it looked like the possibility (of being drafted by them) was more and more. It worked out that way, and it's cool."
In an MLB Network hook-up, Rutschman was asked on-air by Casey when it occurred to him that he might be the No. 1 pick.
"I tried not to think about it, to be honest," Rutschman said. "To me, it's (about) keeping with the team and trying to be the best individual and team man I could be. That was something you taught me, so thank you."
Later, Rutschman admitted that the possibility of going No. 1 "was always running through my mind, but it never manifested itself into how I played. I just tried to keep it where it needed to be."
One of Rutschman's best attributes is modesty. In this day and age of bravado and boastful behavior from athletes, Adley is a throwback. Asked how he would describe himself as a player, he kept it humble.
"I always pride myself on how I carry myself every day," he said. "My grandfather likes to say, 'Control what you can control,' and that's exactly what you need to do as a baseball player.
"There are so many things that are out of your control. I play hard every day, and I'm going to give my best effort. Maybe I'm not hitting one day, but that doesn't mean I can't help the team win some other way."
Rutschman was asked about his final plate appearance as a Beaver, in the eighth inning of a 4-1 loss to Creighton on Saturday, eliminating Oregon State from contention to win the Corvallis Regional.
The capacity crowd — filled mostly with Beaver partisans — understood the moment. As he strode to the plate, they rose as one and delivered a thunderous standing ovation. Rutschman stepped out of the box momentarily, then blasted a drive to the deepest part of center field that was flagged down just in front of the wall.
As Rutschman jogged back to the OSU dugout, he was greeted by another round of applause that shook the stadium, tipping his batting helmet in acknowledgement.
"It was one of those moments I tried to soak up as much as possible," he said. "You don't know if it's going to be your last 'AB' — you're still trying to win the game. But to see the fans' reaction was one of those awesome, in-the-moment things."
So it's good, as Casey noted, that since the Orioles are decked in orange and black, Rutschman "doesn't even have to change colors."
"It's a nice coincidence," Rutschman said with a grin.
The pundits on MLB Network gushed about the possibilities with Rutschman, who went into the Corvallis Regional hitting .540 left-handed and .372 right-handed.
"This guy is the complete package," Casey said. "He can hit. He can defend. He defends an elite position. The intangibles are off the chart. He'll handle a pitching staff. He will make pitchers better. He has all the tools."
"He's very talented," Girardi said. "His mechanics in throwing are excellent. He'll steal some pitches. He's a very good, power-hitting, switch-hitting catcher. And he can play (first base), and versatility is so important in the big leagues today."
Corvallis native Harold Reynolds — a two-time All-Star second baseman with the Seattle Mariners — has watched Rutschman play often over the past three years. Reynolds flew to Corvallis to film a segment on Rutschman for MLB Network last week.
"What impressed me the most was when he started talking about how he catches pitches," Reynolds said. "He said, 'If I get pitches a little bit out of the zone, if I position myself right, I'll get (strike calls on) certain pitches.' That tells you a lot about him, that he's a student of the game, and where he's headed."
It was fun to have Casey involved in Rutschman's big day. Nobody had a greater impact on Rutschman's ascension to the nation's premier collegian than Casey, who eats nails for breakfast and then spits them out at opponents on the ball field.
"Probably the reason I play so hard is the attitude he brought to the field every day," Rutschman allowed later. "He wanted everyone to strive for greatness. That's one of the things I strive for, too — to be the best I can be."
After Rutschman fulfilled obligations with the local media, he walked to the players' lounge, where the crowd had thinned considerably. Pitching coach Nate Yeskie was still there, watching the continuation of the draft on the monitor. Rutschman's parents and sister hadn't departed yet, either, milking the final remnants of an unforgettable day.
Josie — a freshman at Linfield — wore a smile almost as big as her brother's.
"Oh my goodness, this was the best," she said of the occasion. "Adley is such a great brother. He's the best at a lot of things, but he's a really good brother.
"We've been really encouraging to him, saying no matter what happens, it's God's plan. I'm just really happy for him. He seems so excited. It's great to see all of his hard work pay off."
Carol Rutschman spent a bit of time searching for the right words.
"I'm very proud of my son," she said. "I know his work ethic. I know how hard he has worked."
Then she delivered one of the best lines of the day:
"I was proud of the Orioles for picking him. I think that was a smart move."
Her husband — a terrific catcher in his day and the most important influence on his son's development at that position — was in full agreement.
"I've been around a lot of really good players," Randy Rutschman said. "Adley is one of the most determined human beings I've ever been around. If he decides he's going to do something, and commits to it, it happens."
Randy Rutschman paid tribute to the OSU coaches who worked with Adley — Casey, Yeskie, Pat Bailey, Andy Jenkins.
"He was a good fit for the Oregon State program, and he had good people who knew how to channel him in the right direction," Randy said. "Once he was heading here, he was the perfect one to learn under Casey/Bailey/Yeskie/Jenkins. He was all there."
What remains to be seen is how Rutschman will fit among the great major leaguers to come out of the state of Oregon.
Corvallis' Dave Roberts was the No. 1 overall pick by San Diego out of the University of Oregon in 1972, but had a so-so 11-year big-league career as a utility player.
Wilson High grad Dale Murphy, the No. 5 pick by Atlanta in the 1974 draft, was a two-time National League MVP who hit 398 career homers.
In 1942, the Nos. 1 and 3 vote-getters for American League MVP were from Portland. The winner was Joe Gordon of the New York Yankees and Jefferson High; rookie Johnny Pesky of the Boston Red Sox and Lincoln High was third.
Another Lincoln grad, pitcher Mickey Lolich, won 217 big-league games and won three in the 1968 World Series for the Detroit Tigers.
In 2011, Madras native Jacoby Ellsbury had a season for the ages. The ex-Oregon State outfielder won a Gold Glove and was runner-up for the AL MVP with the Red Sox, hitting .321 with 46 doubles, 32 homers, 119 runs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. Ellsbury has had a distinguished 11-year career.
Rutschman will have a chance to place his name alongside those greats in Oregon sporting lore. He has put himself in position to do that with his contributions at Oregon State.
Said Rutschman: " 'Case' had a saying: 'Make sure when you hang up that jersey for the last time, people remember who you are.'"
Beaver Nation remembers, Adley. You've given them something they won't soon forget. That's what greatness is about.
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