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First MLB All-Star Game A Special One For Mullins

Cedric Mullins at bat.
Cedric Mullins at bat. Photo by Ken Lund via Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An All-Star Game, regardless of the sport, can mean many things to many athletes.

For some, a gathering of the greatest in their game can be a chance to swap war stories with peers. Others can see the game as a marketing opportunity, a way to further their brand.

Then there are those for whom an All-Star contest is little more than a nuisance, an interruption from blissful down time, a block on a breather.

And finally, there are people like Cedric Mullins, the Orioles’ centerfielder who likely won’t see Tuesday’s baseball All-Star Game in Denver as a necessary evil or a sales option or a time to break bread with brethren.

No, Mullins is likely to see the contest and all the related hoopla as validation or maybe redemption. Either way, if not for anyone else, this game will be meaningful to Cedric Mullins.

Three years ago, Mullins’ place in this game might have seemed inevitable. He was moving up the minor league ranks like the proverbial bullet, having hit over .300 at the Orioles’ Double A affiliate in Bowie.

That’s the level where most organizations place their best young talent just before they get called to the major leagues, the Show, as it were.

Mullins was thought to be so good and to have so much promise that the Birds greased the way for his ascension first by moving Adam Jones, the fulcrum of the franchise from center field to right, then letting Jones go entirely.

The path was seemingly paved for Mullins to be great. The problem was he wasn’t. Not even close. He struggled in his 2018 half season call-up and flat out bombed in 2019.

He hit .094 in the first 22 games of the 2019 season and looked so lost doing it that the club sent him back to the minors for the rest of the year.

That could have, and perhaps should have been the end of Cedric Mullins’ baseball career. Many players who fail that spectacularly don’t get another chance, and some of those who do, don’t succeed.

Mullins made his way back to the Orioles, whose horrific play in 2019 gave the organization the ability to take a chance. After all, it wasn’t as if they were giving up a spot on a roster that was going to contend.

Still, his ascension didn’t come smoothly. He hit a respectable .271 in the truncated 2020 season, a good sign, but with an asterisk.

Mullins, a switch-hitter since high school, hit horribly from the right-side, batting just .171.

Clearly, something had to give for Mullins to make it all the way back, and so it did.

Before the 2021 season, Mullins gave up batting right-handed, trusting that his ability to hit left-handed and his speed would carry the day.

So far, the gamble has paid off, as Mullins ranks among the top 10 in batting average and stolen bases in all of baseball, batting over .300 against right and left handed pitchers.

In 10 or 15 years, these All-Star games may be passe for Cedric Mullins, just another couple of days to swap stories and sell stuff. But this first one will be unforgettable.

And that’s how I see it for this week.

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Twitter: @SportsAtLarge

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.