There isn’t much in common between hunting and baseball.
In fact, there’s almost nothing in common.
For Matt Wotherspoon, however, there is one similar thread between the two.
When the phone rings in the bullpen and Wotherspoon hears his name called, his adrenaline starts pumping, just like when he has a buck in his sights.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the postseason, regular season or even spring training, Wotherspoon still gets that rush whenever it’s his time to take the mound.
“Juices were through the roof — probably a little bit more than I would have liked, honestly,” Wotherspoon said of his March 7 spring training appearance for the Baltimore Orioles. “It was the first one of the year, it was a big-league game — we had a good crowd that day — but that’s what makes it fun, and that’s why I enjoy what I do. I think honestly that’s why I like to hunt whitetails in Pennsylvania, too, because that’s really the only thing I can compare that rush to.
“I just really enjoy the adrenaline rush and I think that’s the first thing you miss in the offseason. And it’s kind of fun getting that back in the deer woods.”
Not only does hunting give Wotherspoon that offseason adrenaline rush — he harvested a buck in October while bow hunting — but all that sitting and waiting for his chance to take a deer gives the Crestwood alum time to reflect on his previous season.
And Wotherspoon had a lot to reflect on while waiting in the Pennsylvania woods.
The 26-year-old reliever was traded from the organization that drafted him — the New York Yankees, which provided him with the opportunity to pitch in front of his family and friends on a nightly basis while with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders — to the AL East rival Baltimore Orioles in July.
But after pitching for both the Triple-A RailRiders and Double-A Trenton in 2017, Wotherspoon took the trade and his assignment to the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in stride. He put together one of his best stretches of baseball since a 10-game stint with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016.
Wotherspoon appeared in 17 games for the Tides, registering a 3-1 record to pair with a 2.20 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 28.2 innings.
The right-hander even pitched well enough to earn a trip to Sarasota, Fla., after Norfolk’s season ended to continue working out with “four or five” other pitchers at the organization’s minor league complex in case he was needed by the Orioles. This was the first time Wotherspoon was assigned to the “taxi squad.”
“I thought I had the chance last September to get the call-up, but it didn’t work out,” Wotherspoon said. “God forbid something were to happen or an injury, which you don’t want to see. It could have been something as much as they just need an extra arm that night. It could have been that simple and it could have been what I needed to get to the big leagues. But it was definitely an exciting time to be down there.”
Taking in spring training with the Orioles for the first time, this has been a bit of a fresh start for Wotherspoon.
Coming off a his first taxi-squad assignment, the right-hander has spent most of the the spring with the big-league club. In fact, this has been the most time Wotherspoon has spent at a big-league camp during his professional career.
“We all say in baseball that you can control what you can control,” Wotherspoon said. “There’s 29 other teams — or however many other teams — out there that you’re also pitching for, and in my case it just happened to be with the Orioles and they made a trade for me. I really couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity I have in front of me.”
Wotherspoon hopes his March 7 appearance against the Toronto Blue Jays is just the start.
After pitching 0.2 innings in relief, allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out one, Wotherspoon will look to roll his momentum into his next appearance with the Orioles.
While an appearance with the big-league club is not certain this season — Wotherspoon isn’t currently on the Orioles’ 40-man roster — the former RailRiders pitcher is eager to see where his pitching takes him.
Whether it’s a full season with Norfolk or includes a call-up to the majors.
“I just think pitching to the best of my ability and see where that takes me,” Wotherspoon stated as his goal this season. “Obviously, I hope to get (to the bigs) this year. But if I pitch to the best of my abilities and it doesn’t happen this year, I can live with that. It’s a lot of right-place, right-time situations, but obviously that’s the goal. Everybody wants to be in the big leagues.
“As long as I stay healthy and pitch to the best of my abilities, wherever that takes me I consider it a good year.”