Orioles' Choice Of Hader In Draft Stuns Pitcher

Posted on June 07, 2012

By Keith Mills

Josh Hader had heard the rumors early Wednesday afternoon.

"My dad's friend called me," Hader said, "and said the Orioles had drafted me in the 19th round. I said, 'You're lying to me.' I didn't believe it. I was thinking, 'Man, this is crazy.' "

It wasn't until he was on his way to Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the press conference announcing the teams for Sunday's Brooks Robinson High School All-Star game that the rumor became fact.

"I was driving here for the conference," said Hader, standing in the sixth floor of the Warehouse at Camden Yards, "when Dean called and said I had been drafted in the 19th round. I didn't know what to say. It was so overwhelming."

"Dean" is Dean Albany, the Orioles' longtime Mid-Atlantic area scout and cross-checker, who delivered stunning news to the just-graduated Old Mill High senior -- he could soon be playing for one of the farm teams of his hometown Orioles.

"I'm an Oriole," said Hader, a 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher. "It's awesome. I still can't believe it. My friends and family can watch me play and watch me grow and maybe one day I'll be over here playing at Camden Yards. This is just unbelievable."

Of course the Orioles still need to sign Hader, who was invited to the team's pre-draft workout at Camden Yards last week and is scheduled to attend Anne Arundel Community College next year, though the lefty gave Albany every indication he would sign. Hader, his family and Albany will meet June 8 to discuss the contract.

A few minutes after the Orioles selected Hader, they used their 20th pick of the draft on Gilman's Ryan Ripken, who follows in the footsteps of his father, Cal, the Orioles' second-round draft pick in 1978. Ryan Ripken, the 6-foot-5 Greyhounds first baseman, matured from a tall and gangly freshman to a superb athlete and a major force for coach Larry Sheets, both offensively and defensively.

Ryan Ripken has already signed a collegiate letter of intent to play next year at South Carolina, the two-time defending NCAA champion. Last week, Cal Ripken told WBAL's Brett Hollander that Ryan would likely go to South Carolina pretty much regardless of where he got drafted.

In one of the great ironies of this year's draft, the Orioles took South Carolina first baseman Christian Walker during the fourth round Tuesday afternoon, which could leave the position wide open for Ryan if he indeed decides to go to college.

Later that day, Ryan Ripken was taking batting practice with his new summer team -- the prestigious Youse's Maryland Orioles collegiate team coached by Tim Norris, once Cal's roommate in the Orioles minor league system.

"The Orioles obviously think a lot of Christian," Ryan said, "and that's great for him. He's a great player, and it was fun watching him play this year. If he does sign and the job is open next year, I'd look forward to competing for the spot."

Ryan Ripken didn't take part in the tryout phase of the Brooks Robinson All-Star Game, which requires graduating seniors first to take part in one of the four designated regional workouts throughout the state. Then, if selected, the senior must have played in one of the Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches' two All-Star games. 

Those games were played in May at Northeast High in Pasadena and did include Ripken, which prevented him from making either the North or South teams for the 31st Brooks Robinson All-Star game.

Hader is one of 30 players selected for the game and will pitch for the South team. During his senior year at Old Mill for coach Jeff Martin, he held a 10-0 record and 0.39 ERA, with 125 strikeouts, a .409 batting average and 27 runs batted in. That earned him Anne Arundel County Player of the Year honors.

He also has a connection with Albany. As a freshman, Hader played on the junior varsity team and his mentor was Old Mill varsity assistant coach Tim McMullen. In 1980, McMullen was the coach at Brooklyn Park High School, which won the Class B state championship behind the pitching of Albany and the hitting of shortstop Jack Turek, who both went on to play at Alabama. McMullen later won a state championship as well at Broadneck.

Hader threw pretty much sidearm as a freshman, but McMullen helped him change to more of an overhand delivery.

During a game in mid-May against North County, with Albany behind the Old Mill backstop with his radar gun, Hader hit 90 mph twice, striking out 13 North County batters as the Patriots won, 5-0. He regularly throws his fastball in the 84-87 mph range and when he drops down sidearm to throw his breaking ball, he has been all but unhittable.

Hader is not the only Anne Arundel County player on the team. Sean Miller started at shortstop for Archbishop Spalding for all four years of his high school career -- the first two under his father, Steve, as coach and the last two under Jeff Palumbo.

One of the finest defensive players ever to play shortstop in the Baltimore area, he hit .365 during his senior year with 26 runs scored and 20 stolen bases. Though he has played at Camden Yards before in showcase tryout camps and traveled the country playing summer ball, he said making the Brooks Robinson All-Star game was the highlight of his prep career.

"This is the best thing I've done," said Miller, an all MIAA A Conference selection the last two years. "It's what everyone dreams about doing -- playing at Camden Yards where the Orioles play."

Miller is headed to the University of South Carolina-Aiken. Spalding teammate Nick Freeburger is going to Harford Community after a senior year during which he hit .333 with 21 runs batted in. As a junior, he hit .445 with eight home runs and 35 RBIs. As a sophomore at Cardinal Gibbons, he hit .400 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs.

Outfielder Nick Sia played for coach Kenny Dunn at South River, and hit .426 this year, while Brandon O'Malley of Northeast would have been named Anne Arundel's Player of the Year had it not been for Hader.

O'Malley, the son of former Poly and UMBC standout Tim O'Malley, was tremendous for the Eagles, both on the mound and at the plate. As a pitcher, he finished with an 8-1 record and 64 strikeouts. As a shortstop, he hit .406 with three home runs, 22 RBIs and 22 runs scored. He will attend Catonsville Community College next after earning first team All-Metro honors this year from The Baltimore Sun.

"This is very special," O'Malley said of earning a berth in the All-Star game. "A lot of people dream of playing at Camden Yards, and I will get the chance. There are a lot of good baseball players here, and it's going to be fun."

"To be playing in the Brooks Robinson game is awesome," North Harford's Kevin Mooney said. "This is the best in the state, and it's an honor to be picked for the team."

Mooney is one of nine area players named to the North team. In the Class 3A state semifinals two weeks ago at Joe Cannon Stadium, he pitched a seven-inning perfect game as North Harford beat North Hagerstown, 4-0. He won 24 games during his career, with 300 strikeouts, and pitched eight complete games and five shutouts. He also hit .353 with nine career home runs and 82 runs batted in and is headed to Maryland next year.

"Coach [Erik] Bakich really has it going on down there," Mooney said, "and it's close enough where my parents can drive down and watch me play. My sister is a junior there, so I'll have two years with her. It's a great opportunity for me."

Mooney's teammate at North Harford, Brady Maguire, also made the North team. He's headed to Harford Community College, while Brandon Casas of Gilman and Lamonte Wade of St. Paul's will join Mooney in College Park after Sunday's Brooks Robinson game.

Wade led the Crusaders to the MIAA A Conference semifinals after hitting .395 with five home runs and 22 RBIs and winning seven of nine decisions, with 48 strikeouts as a pitcher.

"To be selected to play in this game is a great honor," said Wade, a four-year St. Paul's starter. "Brooks Robinson was a great player, a great Oriole, and to play at Camden Yards will be a childhood dream."

Wade will play this summer for the Baltimore Redbirds in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, while Casas and Mooney will both play for the Youse's Maryland Orioles summer team.

The 6-foot-4 Casas won 20 games during his four-year Gilman career, with 177 career strikeouts. As a sophomore, Casas helped the Greyhounds win the MIAA A Conference championship. Alex Pastorius and Lee Lipinski helped Calvert Hall win it this year for coach Lou Eckerl. Pastorius hit .420 with 23 runs scored and four home runs and is headed to the College of Charleston. Lipinski led Calvert Hall in doubles (eight) and stolen bases (10).

Nick Payne will leave Mount St. Joseph as one of the Gaels' finest catchers ever. A three-year starter, Payne hit .417 this year, with two home runs, 10 doubles and 23 runs batted in, and will attend the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

Mount Hebron senior Raul Shah will attend Johns Hopkins. A first-team All-Howard County shortstop, Shah hit .373 with 12 runs scored, seven doubles and 18 runs batted in. Lee Lawler of Reservoir was this year's Howard County Player of the Year after going a perfect 7-0 as a pitcher, with a 0.46 ERA and 72 strikeouts. He'll play next year at Towson.

Michael Austin of Century High in Carroll County is headed for Bethune-Cookman. Austin hit .360 this year with three home runs, 20 RBIs and 17 runs scored.

Posted June 6, 2012

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