Givens, Britton headline 2018 Shorebirds Hot Stove Banquet

SALISBURY, Md – While Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Mychal Givens was the main attraction of this year’s annual Shorebirds Hot Stove Banquet Thursday, Jan. 25 at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, it may have been Buck Britton who stole the show by night’s end.

At the 17th annual banquet put on by the Delmarva Shorebirds – the single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – it was revealed, for the first time publicly, that 31-year old Buck Britton would be taking over the 2018 managerial duties for the Shorebirds.

“It’s a pretty special feeling. I had the privilege of knowing a couple days before, so that let it kind of sink in,” Britton said of his reaction to the news. “But when I found out, it was really humbling, to be honest with you, that the Orioles would think highly enough of me to take on this role.”

Britton, the older brother of current Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton, played in Baltimore’s minor league farm system for six seasons (2009-15) and served as the Shorebirds’ hitting coach last season – his first year as a coach – under Ryan Minor.

Buck Britton answers questions during the annual Hot Stove banquet after he was annouced as the 2018 manager for the Delmarva Shorebirds (Special to the Sussex Post/Joey Gardner).

Minor served as Delmarva’s manager for seven of the last eight seasons and is expected to remain with the organization, though his exact role has not yet been determined.

With just 70 days between the banquet and the first game of the season April 5, Britton has a quick turnaround and a lot of work ahead of him.

He knows one of the biggest challenges he’ll need to overcome in his first year at the helm is getting everyone on the same page. And, just two years removed from his playing career, he hopes to use his recent experiences as a player to his advantage.

“As a young coach, players sometimes might look at you and think ‘you’re fresh out of playing, what makes you superior to me,’ and it’s not about being superior,” he said. “I want to help them understand that I’ve been through it and I’m here to help them mature in their careers.”

Introducing Britton as new manager was just a small portion of Thursday night’s agenda, which featured a handful of guest speakers in addition to major leaguer Mychal Givens making an appearance.

Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher

Givens, 27, has spent the last three seasons in the Orioles’ bullpen, making his major league debut in 2015 and recording a 2.75 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 69 appearances last season.

The shortstop-turned-pitcher spent parts of four seasons with the Shorebirds from 2010-2013.

“It’s good to be back (on the shore), it was a good atmosphere here. When I got drafted, my first year was at Delmarva so it’s good to come back and see all the people that work in the front office here,” Givens said, prior to the banquet, of his playing days with Delmarva.

Oriole’s relief pitcher Mychal Givens answers questions during the annual Hot Stove banquet. Givens who played with the Shorebirds during the 2010 – 2013 seasons (Special to the Sussex Post/Joey Gardner).

Givens spent 10-15 minutes answering submitted questions from fans and sharing some of his fondest memories during his four-year tenure with the Shorebirds.

When he was drafted by Baltimore and started his time with the Shorebirds, Givens was a shortstop. After struggling in the minors as a position player, he made the switch from infield to pitcher. The successful position switch occurred during his time with Delmarva.

“This is home for me, because I went through bumps and bruises going through the minor leagues. I had a lot of injuries throughout the past, then when I got to be a pitcher I converted here, so I’ve been through a lot of things here,” he said.

Prior to the event, Givens spoke briefly about his 2012 season in Delmarva, spending time playing alongside a couple of his current Oriole teammates Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop.

“I would say we probably had one of the best infield combinations throughout that time in 2012 and having Manny and Schoop there was a lot of fun,” he said.

“Givens, during his time with the Shorebirds as well as when he was gone, I would go to spring training every year and Mychal was always one of the first players to come up to me and say, ‘hey how are you doing?’ and he was just always very receptive to us in the front office,” said Shorebirds’ GM Chris Bitters.

“We’re excited to have him down here and hear from him a little bit more about what that transition (from shortstop to pitcher) may have been like and to hear how it is in the big leagues. It’s a unique thing that he did.”

Chelsea Johnson

Following opening remarks from Shorebirds’ play-by-play man Will DeBoer, the mic was handed over to Johnson, the community outreach manager of United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore in Salisbury.

A portion of the proceeds of the night’s silent auction items went towards the United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore. Over the last six years, Ms. Johnson said, this event has brought in close to $12,500 in donations to the United Way.

“Thank you so much, simply by participating in the auction by bidding on these great items tonight you are giving back to our community,” Johnson said. “So, thank you to all of you who are participating, we cannot thank you enough for your support.”

Kent Qualls

Qualls, the director of minor league operations, was the one who made the Britton announcement. He also briefly addressed the crowd regarding the progress the organization’s farm system has progressed over the last year or so.

“A lot of guys who made their major league debuts came through the system last year,” he said. “Austin Hays went from A-ball to Double-A to the major leagues in September. Chance Sisco, who was a terrific player for Delmarva, made his major league debut and he has a bright future ahead of him. Jimmy Yacobonis, who pitched here, made his major league debut as well Stefan Crichton, Tanner Scott.”

Chris Bitters

Bitters, Delmarva’s General Manager, spent about 10 minutes addressing the crowded dining hall at the WY&CC.

“I would really like to thank Mychal for coming down here tonight,” he said, glancing over at Givens sitting to the left of the podium.
Bitters, who has served as the Shorebirds’ GM since November of 2006, took his time with the mic to highlight some of the programs the organization has worked with over the off-season and to thank the fans for the support.

“Thank you all for your community support last year, it made a tremendous impact and we look forward to doubling down this year and doing even more,” he said.

Pat Filippone

Filippone, the president of 7th Inning Stretch – the company that owns the Shorebirds and a couple of other MiLB affiliates – filled the attendees in on the new improvements to Delmarva’s Arthur W. Perdue Stadium heading into the new season.

This off-season has acted as a stepping stone towards next season’s final step in the renovation process.

“This year’s improvements are going to be more structural, to enhance the facility – the guts, so to speak,” he said. “It’s not going to be ‘forward-facing fan amenities’ that you can come buy at the gate to make your experience better, but most importantly it’ll make the building functional for the next 18 years, at least. And then, next year, the plan is to get the final piece of the renovation done, which is the 365-degree concourse behind the outfield wall.”

2018 Shorebirds promotions

Delmarva released its 2018 schedule of promotions Thursday night, which features giveaways, firework nights and special appearances from April through August.

Among those giveaways: a storm trooper Manny Machado bobblehead (Friday, May 4), a Chance Sisco jumbo baseball card (Sunday, May 20) and a Trey Mancini bobblehead (Friday, July 6).

Delmarva will open the 2018 regular season schedule with its home-opener against Asheville Thursday, April 5 at 7:05 p.m.

For additional information on the Shorebirds and the upcoming 2018 season, check out theshorebirds.com.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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