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Buck Showalter enjoys playing role of underdog with Orioles

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter watches batting practice

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter watches batting practice before a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Buck Showalter strode into the visitors' dugout at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night, nodded to reporters and carefully positioned himself on a bench underneath the air conditioning vent.

That strategic move may have been the only planned out aspect of the Baltimore manager's pregame news conference. In an era in which so many managers sit behind desks or use public relations people to field questions from the media, Showalter is a throwback to the days when managers loved to hold court.

Showalter's news conferences are more of a conversation than a question-and-answer session, even before the first game of a relatively big series like the one that opened Tuesday night in the Bronx. Among the topics he opined on before the 3-2 loss to the Yankees, were: lawn mowing, the strength of the Yankees' bullpen, the trading deadline and how lucky he is to be married to his wife, Angela.

"I'm sure everybody looks at us and goes, 'What are you doing with him?' " Showalter said with the laugh of a man who revels in being underestimated.

Showalter, last year's American League Manager of the Year, has made a career out of proving people wrong. First, he survived being fired from the Yankees in 1995, the year before the Yankees won four World Series in five years.

After building the Arizona Diamondbacks into a contender, he once again was fired a year before getting to reap his hard work, finding himself working as a TV analyst when the Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001.

If Showalter ever has been bitter about his bad timing, he hasn't let it get the best of him.

He loves being where he is right now. He recently told Bob Costas in an MLB interview that Baltimore will be his last stop.

In many ways, it is a perfect city and perfect team for him.

He loves being the underdog, loves painting a picture of his team not having much of a chance against the big bad deep-pocket machine known as the Yankees.

"They're playing like a six-inning game every night," Showalter said in reference to the Yankees' bullpen.

The Yankees, however, aren't buying the harmless underdog business. The American League East is the tightest division in baseball.

No one in the Yankees' clubhouse was underestimating Showalter or his club.

"They're very talented. They pitch well. Their bullpen is strong," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the Orioles before the game. "They catch the ball. Run balls down. And they hit the ball out of the ballpark. They can put crooked numbers on you really quickly because they have a number of guys who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. They're just fundamentally sound.

"This is a big series. It gives you an opportunity to put more distance between you and other clubs."

Last season, no one had a better second half of the season than the Orioles, who rode a post-All-Star Game surge to the AL East title.

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton believes that his team can make a similar move this year.

"This is the point where we took off took off last year," Britton said. "We have to continue playing good baseball. We need to play consistent baseball. We know because of last year that we're capable of coming up big in the second half."

No one would love that more than Showalter.

New York Sports