By Dan Connolly
The Baltimore Sun
6:00 PM EDT, March 18, 2013
SARASOTA, Fla. -- One of the best stories in the Orioles organization last year got a little better on Monday.
Old Mill graduate Josh Hader appeared in his first minor league spring training game Monday at Twin Lakes Park, throwing two scoreless innings.
And because it was an off day on the major league level, executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter were there to watch.
Think about that. You are an 18-year-old kid, and on your first outing of the year, months after being drafted, the brass from your childhood team is watching you.
“I saw them. I actually saw them in the second inning when I pitched. I didn’t let that get to me,” Hader said. “It’s an honor to have them come watch me.”
Hader’s ascent in the organization is pretty remarkable. At this time last year, he was just another solid Baltimore-area high school pitcher who may have gone undrafted.
But former Brooklyn Park baseball coach Tim McMullen contacted one of his former players, Orioles scout Dean Albany, and told Albany that he’s got to see this lanky left-hander pitch. McMullen had mentioned the kid before, but he was adamant this time. Albany was in the Dominican Republic at the time, but when he flew back he caught one of Hader’s final games, in which the kid struck out 13 batters.
Albany loved what he saw. And the Orioles took Hader in the 19th round in June's amateur draft. McMullen and Albany were at Twin Lakes on Monday watching as well, smiling like proud fathers.
With some tinkering involving his delivery, Hader went from throwing his fastball from 84-87 mph in high school to 90-93 mph consistently as a pro. It has hit as high as 94. On Monday, he reached 93 mph. He also has three other pitches.
Last year, Hader appeared in 17 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League and for short-season Class-A Aberdeen. He was 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 48 strikeouts versus nine walks in 29 combined innings.
He worked out this winter at Camden Yards and has put 10 pounds on his 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame. Baseball America listed him as the club’s 19th best prospect – that’s pretty astounding for a 19th rounder after an abbreviated first season.
"It was a blessing, my hometown team coming out and being interested in me, and drafting me. That’s a great feeling that they want you,” Hader said. “It’s exciting to know that they are pretty excited about me in the long run.”
Hader, who turns 19 in April, is likely headed to Low-A Delmarva this season. And he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that I can, instead of watch my favorite team, that people can watch me along with Delmarva,” he said. “It’s a great feeling doing what I love.”
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