Twenty-three years ago, when Matt Holliday was 19 years old, the future All-Star outfielder found himself at Arthur W. Purdue Stadium in Salisbury, playing for the Asheville Tourists. It was early in Holiday’s career, and he capped that streak against the Delmarva Shorebirds with a home run.
Now there’s another Holiday starting his career at Purdue Stadium, with Orioles prospect Jackson Holiday making his debut with Low-A Delmarva on Thursday. Holiday is a year younger than his father at this stage, having made the jump from the Florida Comprehensive League to the affiliate after Baltimore selected him with the first overall pick in the 2022 Major League Baseball draft.
Holiday learned of the connection with his father at Purdue Stadium the night before his debut. And while Holiday hasn’t talked to his father about it yet, he laughed and said, “I’ll probably have to call him, see what the secret is” to him calling home for the final two-and-a-half weeks of the season.
That’s where Holliday wanted to be as soon as possible. The 18-year-old from Stillwater, Oklahoma showed what he can do in the Florida Comprehensive League, hitting .409 with a 1.167 OPS in eight games. When he first arrived in Sarasota, Holiday admitted, “it was a lot” adjusting to professional baseball fresh out of high school.
Then he fought for his first professional fight. He singled out.
“It got easier after the first hit,” Holliday said. “It just made things a little bit easier. It started out like a summer baseball camp. And once you start playing the games, it’s a little bit smoother.”
Holliday wasn’t alive when his father played in that series against the Shorebirds, but he had a taste of minor league clubs until this week. When Matt went to rehab in Albuquerque and Grand Junction – branches of the Colorado Rockies – Jackson occasionally supported him.
After the games, Holiday meets his father. If his swing doesn’t feel right, Holliday will send videos to his dad and they’ll discuss any changes that need to be made. But Holliday said the Orioles haven’t made any adjustments to his swing since the pro ball began.
However, working against pitching machines is something he hasn’t done before. It’s helped him adjust to the speed he sees every night, fitting in on the field like he does in the clubhouse.
“He and I are good friends,” the outfielder said Jude Fabian, which was taken under the overall number 67. “For being 1-1, he’s a really humble kid. You’d never know he went 1-1. He’s all about the team and the other players, he’s not about himself.”
The affiliate experience is different from the feel of FCL, where players are centered around the Baltimore headquarters in Sarasota.
Now Holliday lives on his own, growing on the go. He said “me and Grabhub are best friends” and when he’s not in the stadium, Holiday is a typical 18-year-old.
“I’ve been watching a lot of film and hanging out with some of the players,” Holiday said, “so it’s been fun.”
Except Holiday is no ordinary 18-year-old. His draft position, with record $8.19 million signing bonus, shows as much. His performances in the FCL only confirmed that, along with the fact that he starts at shortstop for the Shorebirds on Thursday.
“It’s kind of crazy to think he’s 18,” said Adam Crampton, a ninth-round pick out of Stanford. “He is mature beyond his years. He is very talented and doesn’t act like a normal 18-year-old. He is also a great kid. I enjoy spending time around him and working with him, and I’m lucky enough to work with him and hopefully grow together.”
Added 17th-round pick Carter Young, who will start second to Holiday: “His hitting is obviously very advanced for how young he is. I wasn’t when I was his age.”
And yet they’re all here, playing Thursday for the Shorebirds as the Orioles’ draft class takes its first steps in the affiliate club. Holliday is one of the youngest here, but he is not flattened.
After all, Holiday had already taken the ball deep inside Purdue Stadium. Perhaps Jackson won’t be far behind.
Around the horns
>> Young said he signed with the Orioles to attend LSU because of the “minor league development aspect.” He arrived at LSU as a transfer from Vanderbilt and spent two weeks on campus before deciding to sign with Baltimore “an hour before the deadline.”
>> Catcher Silas Ardoyne, taken in the fourth round out of Texas, is the son of former MLB catcher Danny Ardoyne. He said he “gets a ton of advice” from his father. “I call him every game, ask him how I looked catching, ask him how my at-bats look or what he’s thinking,” he said. “He gives me some great advice, but at the same time I take his advice and apply it to myself in a way that I think will help me the best. But at the end of the day, I want to be my own player.”
>> fabian said the main adjustments to his game were his approach at the plate. “Not swinging the balls that are close to the edges because it’s hard to hit,” he said. “No matter how high you go in baseball, it’s hard to get a strikeout. If you help a pitcher get out, it makes it a lot easier for him, so I’ve mainly focused on making it difficult for him to be a pitcher.”
This story may be updated.