Questioning The Calls

Pikesville native Adam Gladstone mans the Orioles’ instant replay position, in which he can challenge questionable calls by umpires. ( David Stuck)

Pikesville native Adam Gladstone mans the Orioles’ instant replay position, in which he can challenge questionable calls by umpires. (David Stuck)

Adam Gladstone can’t take a single pitch off during Orioles games.

“If at any point Buck [Showalter] ever asks, ‘Listen, what’s the count and how did we get there?’ then I can recite exactly how we got to that count,” Gladstone said of the O’s manager.

The Pikesville native, 42, is the first person to man the Orioles’ instant replay role. This is the first season Major League Baseball has a system in which managers can challenge plays, and teams around the league have added positions such as Gladstone’s.

It’s his job to recommend which calls the team should challenge by finding camera angles that show umpiring errors.

“We need clear and concise — those are the buzzwords — clear and concise evidence to show that the call was incorrect,” explained Gladstone.

While he watches every pitch, tracks hits, outs and where runners are, he’s also looking for visual cues from players and coaches. That’s what helped him score his first victory in his first challenge on April 19 at Fenway Park in Boston. When right fielder Nelson Cruz was called out at first base after hitting a groundball to third, Gladstone saw the reactions from Cruz and first-base coach Wayne Kirby.

Gladstone found the right camera angle and called Orioles bench coach John Russell, who relayed to Showalter that the call warranted a challenge. It took less than a minute, Gladstone said, for umpires at the game to contact MLB’s replay center in New York and review the play. The Orioles won the challenge and scored a run because there were runners on first and third when Cruz was at bat.

Through two television monitors, Gladstone has access to all of the camera angles from whichever networks are broadcasting the game, as well as one stationary camera from the Orioles that shows the entire stadium.

The lifelong Orioles fan, who spent time as a minor league umpire and worked in baseball operations for Israel’s World Baseball Classic team, vividly remembers the first time he set foot in Memorial Stadium. It was 1977, he was 5 years old, and he went to the game with his father, their next-door neighbor and his daughter.

“That was the first time I ever walked into a major league stadium, and for me, it was something special,” said Gladstone. “I learned at that point that I wanted to know more about the game.”

He grew up playing baseball in Pikesville’s recreational league and played four years of varsity baseball at Boys’ Latin. After college, he knew his career was not going to be as a player. It seemed to work out for him.

“Umpiring took me to a level that I would have never reached as a player,” he said.

He umpired for four years in independent minor leagues, managed teams in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League and worked in player procurement, helping assemble teams in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs.

Throughout his career, he connected with members of the tribe, having coached the Maccabi baseball team in 1993, 1994 and 1995. In 2012, his network of Jewish major league managers expanded when he ran baseball operations for Israel’s WBC team. He made sure the team was set up with everything it needed when it arrived in the U.S. that fall.

“That was truly something for me, to be able to give back to my religion through baseball,” said Gladstone. “The real reason why there was an
Israeli World Baseball Classic team was because it was really used as a platform to help grow the game of baseball in Israel.”

In Baltimore, he maintains ties to the Jewish community as a member of Temple Oheb Shalom. His children attend Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School and the Learning Ladder at Oheb.

“I have not been to Israel, even though the [Israel Association of Baseball] continues to ask me to come over,” he said. “I’ve told them I’m a little busy right now.”

His diverse experience, especially the umpiring, is what helped him land his new position with the Orioles.

“I’ve always followed the Orioles. That being said, Buck wanted someone who was going to do the job objectively, who always had the Orioles’ best interests at hand,” said Gladstone.

And the opportunity to be on the ground level of a new addition to Major League Baseball, in addition to the sacrifices his family has had to make, is not something he takes lightly.

“I know that there’s no guarantee there’s a tomorrow in this game,” he said. “So the fact that I’m able to be here now and do it is not something that’s lost on me.”

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