BALTIMORE – You can see him during batting practice. You can’t see him during games.
As the Orioles take their swings, a man with close-cropped gray hair with sunglasses perched on the back of his head, watches intently.
Adam Gladstone isn’t there to counsel the Orioles on their swings. He’s watching how the balls are flying off the bats and the direction the wind is blowing.
He’s getting ready for the game his way.
The 42-year-old Pikesville native is new to the Orioles this season. No announcement was made about Gladstone’s hiring, but he’s one of the most important additions to manager Buck Showalter’s staff.
Gladstone is the Orioles’ replay coordinator. He doesn’t have an official title, but he does have an office, a room just off the home dugout, where he studies the game intently.
Through the first 14 games, the Orioles haven’t made a challenge, but that doesn’t mean Gladstone isn’t working.
He hears it from his friends. “You’re stealing money,” they tell him, but Gladstone is intently watching the game, challenges or not.
Gladstone is charting every pitch because under replay rules even the count can be challenged, and he wants to have the right answer when Showalter or bench coach John Russell want to know if it’s 2-2 or 3-2.
“I can’t take a pitch off,” Gladstone said. It’s going to happen at some point. Buck’s going to call down and say, we have the count at 2-2. What do you have? I’m going to have to recite exactly how we got to that point.”
Opponents have challenged three calls that have gone in the Orioles’ favor. None have been overturned.
Gladstone had five spring training games to prepare for his role. There were no challenges then. In one instance, the Orioles wanted to challenge a call at first, but the television feed went to commercial immediately after the out, which was the third of the inning.
In the regular season, that’s not supposed to happen. Local and national telecasts have to stay with field action after the third out until they’re sure there’s no challenge coming.
Gladstone’s rules for dealing with Showalter are simple.
“It doesn’t’ benefit us to challenge something unless I see something clear and concise and relay that message in a timely fashion to [Russell] and then to Buck. If it’s not clear and concise, they’re not going to overturn it. We have to make sure we get it right,” Gladstone said.
“He wants objectivity. He doesn’t want someone in here that is so pro-Oriole that they can’t distance themselves from right and wrong.”
Showalter has studied the replay rules extensively, and as an advocate for the system, has had input on its implementation.
“I think the biggest thing with the replay guys for each team is deciding what’s inconclusive. What are they viewing as inconclusive? The biggest thing that Adam's done a good job at is understanding what’s inconclusive. What will they overturn? What will they not overturn? You may see him out by this much and they call him safe, and they’re probably not going to overturn it,” Showalter said.
Since there’s never been a replay coordinator before, there’s no clear career path. Gladstone, who went to high school at Baltimore’s Boys Latin, spent two years at Jacksonville University and a year at Towson before becoming a two-time graduate of the Jim Evans Umpire School.
Two decades ago, Gladstone decided he wanted to be a major league umpire, but couldn’t find a job in organized ball.
He became an umpire in independent leagues, and after four years, moved into player procurement for the Atlantic League. Gladstone assembled 15 teams in nine years, and along the way met former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles.
Hoiles and Gladstone organized celebrity hunting trips in the offseason, and after Nick Markakis went on a trip, a connection was made. When the replay position came open, Markakis put in a call to Showalter on Gladstone’s behalf.
“Buck was very cautious of who he brings into the clubhouse. Nick called Buck on my behalf, and told him, I don’t know if Adam can do the job or not, but he certainly is someone you can bring into the clubhouse,” Gladstone said.
Hitting coach Jim Presley encouraged Gladstone to roam the field during batting practice.
“It’s important for me to come out here and get a feel for what’s happening on the field. I don’t want to lose that feeling by being in an office and being behind a screen,” Gladstone said.
Thirty minutes before game time, Gladstone settles into his office, tests the monitors, checks the camera angles, and readies himself.
“Every day we do it, we feel more and more comfortable. We want to get that first challenge out of the way,” Gladstone said.