For much of Ryan Mountcastle’s baseball career, the Orioles first baseman’s mind is preoccupied when he gets to first base or beyond. He takes off his batting gloves and hands them to the bat boy. He checks his surroundings and prepares to leave.
But this season there is a chorus from the dugout – “Mounty! Monty! Monty! – and he remembers the new addition to his routine. He turns to this group of screaming teammates, forms a pair of circles with his hands and brings them up to his eyes.
“To everyone in the world, they’re twins,” said center fielder Cedric Mullins.
But for the Orioles, it’s so much more.
It’s a chance to celebrate together, a unity that can lead to more energy in the dugout and on the base trails. And it’s an opportunity to recognize what is for many of them their favorite game: Call of Duty. So when the Orioles reach base, they put their hands around their eyes, pretending to call in a precision airstrike like they do in the video game using a pair of virtual binoculars.
“Every time someone gets hit you hear the whole dugout screaming to do it,” Mountcastle said. “Bring some energy.
When the Orioles returned to Baltimore for the team’s home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers, infielder Rougned Odor assembled a group of players. He’s been in the league since 2014 and, in his experience, teams with a unifying ritual tend to be the tightest. The idea isn’t new to Baltimore either. The 2019 team celebrated base hits with a fake bazooka and fake lawn mower.
Odor and infielder Jorge Mateo started playing Call of Duty together when they arrived at spring training. Mullins, Mountcastle and a handful of others also play. So during this impromptu team meeting, Odor thought of something that many of them could relate to.
When playing Warzone, a game mode in Call of Duty, most Orioles players have a similar tactic. They buy a Precision Airstrike once they get enough in-game money. And once they knock down an opposing player, they target that Airstrike where the enemy fell, so the Opposing player and his teammates are even more coerced in the free for all shooting game.
“We use a sniper,” Odor explained. “When you shoot someone, knock them down, we throw precision to finish them off.”
During this meeting, the very first idea Odor floated was to don a fake pair of binoculars, hinting at their shared tactics in Call of Duty. For example, when infielder Ramón Urías took a walk to beat the Yankees earlier this month, his first move was to smile and put his hands up to his face.
It’s quickly understood, even if some in the clubhouse are completely unaware of what a Precision Airstrike is in Call of Duty.
“I know it has something to do with a video game,” first baseman Trey Mancini said. “I do it because everyone else does it.”
And that’s exactly why Odor suggested the shared ritual. When the Orioles batter, the dugout is engaged, ready to remind players like Mountcastle to don a pair of Call of Duty-inspired binoculars to celebrate their arrival at base.
“When you have those little things that create more energy in the team, the whole team comes together,” Odor said. “That’s the whole point: creating energy and making the team more cohesive. I think that’s the big key to winning games.