Fans attending Delmarva Shorebirds games this summer may see another familiar name on the back of a jersey in the home dugout.
Yes, former Oriole Ryan Minor is in his seventh year managing the Orioles' Single-A affiliate, but this year he is joined by first-year hitting coach Buck Britton.
Britton, 31, is the older brother of Orioles All-Star closer Zach Britton, but he also played seven seasons in the Orioles' minor league system during a nine-year professional career before returning to the Orioles' organization to begin his coaching career this season.
While the offseason transition from player to coach has been quick -- Britton played his last professional games with Licey of the Dominican Winter League last October -- the familiarity of returning to the organization that drafted him in 2008, and where he played through 2014, has helped him settle in.
"I was with the Orioles for so long that being in Sarasota, [Fla.], felt like my second home," Britton said. "And having the same guys in the organization still from when I was playing here has been a comfortable transition. They're really good with handling not only their coaches but their players, which is why guys like me love coming back to help or guys that have played with the Orioles like coming back. It's been a smooth transition all the way through."
The decision to step away from the diamond as a player is never easy, but Buck Britton's previous relationship with the Orioles' organization provided him with resources and encouragement as he made the decision to take the next step in his baseball career.
"First off, I love baseball, and I love being around it," Britton said. "… I even had [Orioles manager] Buck [Showalter] tell me he thought I would be really good at this. So just having those types of influences not necessarily steering me in a direction, but helping me when it was time to stop playing -- helping reinforce that ‘this is something that you would be good at and we would love to have you.'"
Now, Britton finds himself on the other side of the batting cage, helping Orioles prospects improve on the field and at the plate to continue their development as they chase every player's dream of working through the farm system and making it to the majors.
Many of the Shorebirds players are experiencing their first full professional seasons after being drafted out of high school or college as recently as June 2016. That means this is their first year playing 140 games between April and September with more bus rides, more hotel rooms and more games against better competition than they have faced before.
That change in game preparation and mindset is where Britton and the minor league coaching staff step in.
"I just try to stick with the basics," Britton said. "I don't try to overload these guys just because it's their first year of pro ball and they are not only having to figure out how to transition to a wood bat but kind of feel out the grind of 140 games playing every day. So a lot of it is not only the technical side but the mental side that I have to help these guys with. Most of them have never failed [at baseball] in their life, so it's having to mentor them more than anything."
Britton's experience comes from the 828 career minor league games he played in the Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins organizations. As a player, he experienced many highs and lows, and he is now learning to channel that knowledge to the next crop of Orioles.
Coming back home to the Orioles means Britton is again around many of the same coaches and instructors who advised him as a player, such as Orioles director of player development Brian Graham and minor league hitting coordinator Jeff Manto. Though he is now coaching, Britton's past relationships have been important to his own development as he continues his baseball journey in this new position.
"I am comfortable approaching those guys with different ideas and/or questions that I have," Britton said. "They've been really good in that sense, where I can come to them with anything, and they are there to kind of still mentor me as I transition into this type of role."