The current Orioles treated a sellout crowd at Camden Yards to yet another extra-inning victory Sunday afternoon. The few fans that remained in the ballpark's lower bowl for theBrooks RobinsonAll-Star Game, however, caught a glimpse of the club's future.
Left-hander Josh Hader (Old Mill) dazzled as the starting pitcher for the state's high school South All-Stars, fanning three batters in two innings. He gave up just one hit in the brief appearance before surrendering the rubber to allow more of the South's pitching staff to throw.
Last Wednesday, the Orioles selected Hader with their 19th-round pick of the MLB Draft, one day after his high school graduation. His performance facing Maryland's top prospects was dominant enough to wonder if Hader hasn't seen the last of the Oriole Park mound he towered over with his 6-foot-3 frame. The presence of Baltimore manager Buck Showalter and center fielder Adam Jones in the dugout certainly didn't seem to faze him.
"It felt like an honor," Hader, donning his Old Mill baseball cap, said. "[Nerves] didn't bother anything in my pitches. It was just a great feeling."
With their starter setting the tone for the afternoon, the South All-Stars triumphed over the North, 4-3.
The first inning went off without a hitch for Hader, who had friends and family in from around the state to watch the game. In rapid-fire style, he punched out the first two North batters of the evening. The next batter grounded out to the shortstop.
This season for Anne Arundel County-champion Old Mill, Hader was similarly untouchable. He posted a 10-0 record with a microscopic 0.39 ERA. That strong senior campaign transformed Hader from a virtual unknown to a gem that the Orioles' scouting department couldn't ignore. Hader grew up attending games at Camden Yards.
"I used to come here all the time," Hader said. "My Little League team used to walk around the field."
He hit his catcher's spots perfectly Sunday, disturbing hitters' rhythm by mixing in off-speed pitches. In favorable counts, he got batters to bite on his fastball, which usually clocks in around 88 mph.
But during the game's second inning, Hader hit a rough patch. A leadoff walk turned into runners on the corners after a single two batters later, the lone hit he allowed. Hader bore down and got the next two North All-Stars to fly lazily out to shallow right field.
After two quick innings of work, Hader emerged from the home dugout just once more — to claim the trophy for the South's most valuable pitcher at the game's conclusion.
"He's a pleasure to be around," said Jeff Rabberman, the baseball coach at Gaithersburg and one of the coaches for the South All-Stars. "He really handled himself well. To step into the stadium of the team he just got drafted by had to be a thrill-and-a-half for him.
"I'm nothing but impressed. … He was as advertised, if not better."
With graduation and the draft behind him, Hader now turns his attention to hammering out a deal with the Orioles. He originally planned on attending Anne Arundel Community College, but when the hometown team came calling, Hader's intentions changed. Negotiations between Hader and the club begin Monday.
But as Hader dipped into the clubhouse as the sun set behind the first-base stands, he glanced around once more, hoping his return would come sooner, not later.
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