- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2005


When Jeffrey Hammonds went through his first spring training workout with the Washington Nationals, it was as if he had come home because everything seemed so familiar — the outfield drills and other fundamentals and the way they were presented.

He had seen it before — in Baltimore, with the Orioles.

“It’s a special way of doing things,” Hammonds said. “A lot of teaching and not wasting a lot of time.”

That special way has often been referred to as the “Oriole Way,” and it is alive and well here in Viera because of the Baltimore presence running through Nationals spring training camp with manager Frank Robinson and coaches Don Buford and Jack Voigt, who both played for the Orioles and coached in the organization.

The notion of the Oriole Way may have been overused in Baltimore, often called upon to remember the more successful times of the organization. It became a tired old mantra, in part because it seemed as if the more the Orioles continued to lose and the farther they got away from the Oriole Way, the more it would be brought up, even though it was clear at times that the people in charge had no clue what the Oriole Way was like.

“Some of the management people may have talked about the Oriole Way, but they didn’t understand it,” said Buford, who learned it when he was a player in Baltimore from 1968 to 1972 and then helped teach it as a coach and farm director.

It has taken almost a mystical quality over the years, but it is something very real to Robinson, the Nats manager who led the Orioles to two World Series championships and four American League pennants as a player and also later managed and worked in the front office in Baltimore. It is his blueprint for how to prepare his team for the 2005 season.

When asked whether he uses his experience as a player in Cincinnati, where he spent the first part of his career from 1956 to 1965, or from Baltimore, where he played from 1966 to 1971, Robinson said, “It comes from Baltimore.

“I felt like they did things correctly there,” he said. “They set a tone that was positive, a tone that if you do things the way we want them done, you have a good chance of being successful. In Cincinnati, they basically just ran the routine type of plays. I never saw a manual there on how they did things. In Baltimore, there was the manual, and I was more involved in things, asking questions, making suggestions. I draw from that more than any other organization.

“I think it stands the test of time,” Robinson said. “When I went to San Francisco [to manage], I took the manual with me there and put a Giants cover on it.”

Buford, the Nats’ first-base coach, said you can see that manual being used all over the fields at the Carl Barger Baseball Complex, where the Nats have been training every morning.

“There are a lot of things that we used in Baltimore being taught here, a lot of the fundamental things, how to avoid mistakes,” he said. “With the background of Frank and myself and then Jack Voigt, we are taking some of what we had in Baltimore and using it here.”

Baseball isn’t rocket science, and there have been many successful franchises that have taught the fundamentals and approach to the game very well, including the New York Yankees under Joe Torre, who certainly had a strong influence on Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli. But there is a definitive tone to the message Robinson is preaching — defense, teamwork, preparation — that sounds just like the characteristics that defined the Orioles franchise during their glory days from 1966 to 1983 — except now, though, Robinson wants those characteristics to define the Washington Nationals.

He wants it to be the “National Way.”

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide