Hader's Signing With O's Is Another Gold Star For Old Mill
By Keith Mills
One week after the Orioles made him their 19th-round draft pick, Old Mill High School's Josh Hader signed his first professional baseball contract June 13 at what is now his alma mater.
"I still feel like this is a dream," Hader said. "It's unbelievable how fast all this has happened -- playing my senior year, graduating from high school, getting drafted and now this -- unbelievable."
With his mother, Patricia; his dad, Tom; Orioles scout Dean Albany; and Old Mill coach Jeff Martin all on hand, Hader signed the contract inside the Old Mill media center, two nights after meeting with Albany to work out the contract details.
"We're very excited to have Josh join the Orioles," said Albany, who once played against Old Mill as a dominant right-handed pitcher for Brooklyn Park in 1980 and '81. "He has a lot of things going for him. He works hard and has had some really good coaching."
"This is a big day for not just the baseball program here but also the school," Martin said. "It's every kid's dream to be picked by the hometown team. You can't ask for anything better than that."
The signing capped off a whirlwind last three months for Hader, a 6-foot-3 lefthander who graduated from the Millersville school just two weeks ago and has been a member of the Patriots' varsity team since his freshman year.
In April, Hader struck out 14 and pitched a no-hitter against the Severna Park Falcons, last year's Class 4A state runners-up. Two weeks later, with Albany on hand at Old Mill, he struck out 13 more during a 5-1 win against North County.
Overall, he pitched two no-hitters this spring, and finished with a 10-0 record and a 0.39 ERA. He was named Anne Arundel County's Player of the Year, first-team All-Metro by The Baltimore Sun and was the starting pitcher for the South team in last week's Brooks Robinson All-Star game at Camden Yards.
Before that game, he met Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, who welcomed him into the team family, even though he had yet to sign his contract. Hader struck out three North batters in two innings during the Brooks Robinson game, with Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, pitching coach Rick Adair, Albany and manager Buck Showalter watching.
"It was really nice of Adam Jones to come up to me before the game," Hader said, "and then I went to the mound in the first inning and saw Mr. Buck sitting in the dugout. I said, 'Dang, he's here to see me.' It was actually an honor."
One night later, Albany visited Hader at his home in Millersville and worked out a contract that will have Hader leave for the Orioles' minor league complex in Sarasota June 17. He is expected to play for the Gulf Coast Orioles, the team's Rookie League affiliate.
"He'll have to make some adjustments," Albany said, "but he's left-handed, has an aptitude to learn and he has a feel as to how to pitch. That's important. There are a million right-handed pitchers in high school who throw 92-93 [mph]. But we're always looking for a left-hander who can throw 85 to 87 and has a good feel on how to pitch."
Hader's explosion onto the high school scene this year, though somewhat surprising, wasn't because of lack of talent, good coaching or hard work.
Four years ago, Martin, a 1992 graduate of Old Mill, took over the baseball program for Mel Montgomery, who led the Patriots to three state championships during his 25-year-coaching career.
"Coach Martin has been a real big influence on me," Hader said. "So has coach [Josh] Molnar, and [Nick] Klug. They've always been there for me."
"We always felt Josh had a lot of ability," Martin said. "It was just a matter of getting him to believe in himself. He's had some real good coaching outside of high school."
When Hader was 11 years old, he began playing for the North Glen A's out of Glen Burnie. His coaches were his father, Tom, and Don Gilbert, a 1987 graduate of Northeast High in Pasadena under legendary coach Harry Lentz. Gilbert eventually played for three years in the Orioles' farm system before he was released and became a teacher.
Gilbert spent 14 years at Dunbar High in East Baltimore, where he led the Poets to the first state semifinal baseball berth in Baltimore City public schools history before stepping down this year to watch his son Tyler play his senior year at Glen Burnie. Hader played for Gilbert right from his North Glen days though last year, when he pitched for the Glen Burnie team on Anne Arundel County's Connie Mack team.
"He's been in my life for a long time," Hader said of Gilbert, "and he's helped me a lot. He's always been there, it seems. In fact, he taught me how to throw a slider."
There's one other coach at Old Mill that had an influence on Hader when he arrived four years ago.
In fact, during Wednesday's press conference, Tim McMullen sat back like a proud papa as one of his former players (Albany) was about to sign one of his latest ones (Hader).
McMullen is a member of the Maryland State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, after winning state championships at both Brooklyn Park and Broadneck during the 1980s.
Once Broadneck's athletic director, he retired from teaching in 1995. Three years later, he joined Martin's staff at Old Mill, where his sons, Tim Jr. and Ed, played baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
As a freshman, Hader started out on the Patriots' junior varsity team, when McMullen and Martin tweaked the mechanics of his windup and delivery, which eventually turned out to be a huge part of his development.
"Josh was very talented as a ninth-grader," McMullen said, "but he threw sidearm a lot. We worked very hard to get him to throw three-quarters, and when he made the transition, he was really tough. He had a solid year for us as a 10th-grader, and then as a junior he broke his ankle, but worked really hard to get back."
McMullen is no stranger to top-notch high school pitching. At Broadneck he helped Sean Ryan get drafted, while at Brooklyn Park he assisted in the development of All-Metro pitchers Jimmy Raska, Bobby Englemeyer, Bobby Boyd, Ray Sachs, Tim Florey, Chris Connell and Albany. All seven were drafted and six of them played pro baseball. Englemeyer and Boyd went as high as Class AA before arm injuries forced them out.
Boyd was the 1975 All-Metro Player of the Year at Brooklyn Park, leading the Bees to the Class B state semifinals, while Albany and fellow All-Metro shortstop Jack Turek led them to the 1980 state championship and the runner-up spot one-year later.
Albany worked closely with Martin and McMullen in scouting and signing Hader, who benefited from McMullen's guidance when he was a freshman.
"Jeff called me in early March," McMullen said, "and said Josh was really throwing well. So I called Dean just to give him a heads-up. I was at the Severna Park game when he no-hit them. You don't throw no-hitters against Severna Park, and you don't strike out 14 guys. His curveball rotation is outstanding, and he works really hard."
"I was in the Dominican Republic watching a game," Albany said, "when coach McMullen called and said Josh threw really well at Severna Park. I sent one of our associate scouts to watch him pitch again and he threw really well. I went to see him against North County and really decided then that we'd like to sign him.
"But I didn't really want to publicize that the Orioles were really interested. I wanted to low-key it. Usually I'll go in and meet the family and do it that way. But in coach McMullen and Jeff Martin I knew Josh was in good hands, and I did a lot of the work through them. They did a great job in handling the situation."
The Miami Marlins were the other team that showed interest. Hader participated in the Orioles' pre-draft workout at Camden Yards, but he also took a plane to Miami at the request of Marlins scout Tony Saunders, who pitched locally at both Glen Burnie and Howard high schools.
The Orioles beat the Marlins to the punch when they drafted Hader during the 19th round last week.
That capped what has a been an extraordinary year at Old Mill, the last in the 40-year teaching and coaching career of outgoing athletic director Bruce Lawton, who was also on hand, along with incoming AD Craig White, at the Hader signing.
"We have been very fortunate at Old Mill," Martin said, "to have two outstanding athletic directors -- Jim Dillon and Bruce Lawton. Bruce was actually my teacher and coach here at Old Mill. He is everything you could as for an athletic director."
Last December, the football team won the Class 4A state championship, while All-American hurdler Alexis Franklin won the 400 meter hurdles at the prestigious Penn Relays before winning state championships in both indoor and outdoor track.
Now Hader has signed with the Orioles.
"Coming off his injury, what he did was really outstanding," Martin said, "and in a county which has very good baseball. Anne Arundel County baseball is excellent. To top it off with him signing with the Orioles is really special."
"I feel pretty rich right now," McMullen said. "A guy I coached as 1980 state champion, who is now doing a great job scouting, and a kid who I had a chance to work with a couple of years ago, who now signs with the Orioles. Baseball is just a magical part of all of our lives."
Posted June 13, 2012