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Orioles rookie Heston Kjerstad proudly ‘earns my stripes’ with shower of champagne and condiments to celebrate first home run – The Denver Post

Heston Kjerstad realizes he was lucky.

As his teammates apparently threw the entire contents of the clubhouse kitchen at his head on Sunday while he sat awkwardly in a laundry cart, he shut his mouth in time to avoid most of the disgusting concoctions – including including Chick-fil-A sauce, smoothies, beer. and vinaigrette.

“All I tasted was balsamic vinaigrette,” Kjerstad said with a laugh. “It could have been worse.”

In any other context, what happened at the end of the Orioles’ playoff night on Sunday would be downright bizarre. But not at an MLB club, where firsts and career milestones are often accompanied by similar celebrations.

It’s a rite of passage for baseball players: a shared experience to commemorate their first home runs, wins, saves and other accomplishments. Kjerstad’s celebration capped a wild atmosphere inside the Orioles clubhouse after the club clinched its first playoff berth since 2016 and beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, in perhaps the best victory of the season.

“It’s one of those things you have to do once,” the 24-year-old said. “I have to earn my stripes. This is all part of it. It’s all fun and games, of course. It’s all part of the process, it’s all part of the journey.

The list of what was dumped on Kjerstad seemed endless, from mango salsa to ice cream to olive oil. He took it all in without a problem while sitting in the rolling laundry basket with his arms and legs dangling over the sides.

Kjerstad, who was recalled and made his MLB debut on Thursday, actually hit his first big league homer on Friday, but the solo shot resulted in a 7-1 loss – the club’s fourth in a row at the time. Normally the team would be celebrating the feat that night, but the veterans in the clubhouse decided it wasn’t the right time in the middle of a pivotal series that was going in the wrong direction.

“After the defeat, I went up [Kjerstad], congratulated him not only on his debut, but also on his first career home run,” said center fielder Cedric Mullins. “I said, ‘We’ll celebrate you properly after you get a win.'”

The Orioles won 8-0 the next night, but the elation of that victory — the biggest of the season before Sunday’s eclipsed it — caused the celebration to “fall through the cracks.”

Mullins then spoke to starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, the 35-year-old pitching staff leader, to make sure they wouldn’t forget another day.

“I said, ‘Hey, we need to make sure we get this done,’” Mullins recalled telling Gibson. “He said, ‘We win tomorrow, for sure, we’re going to knock him out.’ And then everything lined up with the idea of ​​winning the playoffs, it was a perfect opportunity.

Mullins and Gibson haven’t forgotten Sunday. During the raucous celebration, amid blaring music, dancing and champagne splashes, Kjerstad just remembers being thrown into a laundry bin and the rest was a blur.

“As soon as that was done, I jumped in the shower,” Kjerstad said.

The point of such silliness, Gibson said, is to recognize how difficult baseball is and the path players take to achieve their dreams. While younger players are more often victims, veterans can also be doused with career milestones. Veteran left-hander Danny Coulombe recorded the first save of his major league career in July and was celebrated. Gibson, a father of four, asked his teammates, most of whom are a decade his junior, to shower him with fluids after his 100th win last month.

“No one is safe from the trolley,” Gibson said. “You’re doing something special that’s worthwhile, you’re getting in the basket.”

Baltimore is Gibson’s fourth MLB team, and he said the Orioles are a little crazier than the other teams. Rather than the typical beer shower, the right-hander said it was unusual — and a lot of fun — to add chia bowls, fruit cups, soy sauce and “any other liquid or solid that we we can find.” But what Kjerstad received on Sunday was on another level.

“He definitely had it worse than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Gibson said. “I feel for this guy, because he was really something.”

Kjerstad might not want to jump into a laundry cart every time the Orioles pop champagne, but he’s grateful for the timing of his big league call-up last week.

“I hope I can participate in a lot more events in the future,” he said.


denverpost sports

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