T-Rats LHP Eric O'Flaherty (Seattle Mariners)
InsidethePark.com's Nick Saeger catches up with Seattle Mariner farmhand Eric O'Flaherty and talked with the Washington State native on several subjects including his days as a kid watching the M's. Read on to learn more about O'Flaherty's experience as a pro, and his own evaluation of his talents.
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers pitcher Eric O’Flaherty is living the dream. The
19-year-old left hander is not only playing baseball professionally but he’s
doing it for his home organization, the Seattle Mariners.
Now in his first full season of pro ball, the Walla Walla High grad is enjoying
his unique situation. Every boy dreams of someday playing for his favorite
team, but only small number actually get it out.
It all began last June when the Mariners selected the hometown left-handed
pitcher in the sixth round (176th overall) of the June draft. Labeled the best
prospect in the state by Baseball America magazine, the situation worked out
well for both sides when O’Flaherty was still available for the M’s pick.
As a senior at Walla Walla, O’Flaherty went 5-2 his with a 1.99 ERA and 83
strikeouts, earning him Pitcher of the Year honors for the Big Nine Conference.
Growing up in Washington, O’Flaherty was a huge Mariners fan and has followed
the team since the days when he first started playing ball. His grandfather had
season tickets, which allowed O’Flaherty to attend a couple games a year at the
Kingdome and then, since 1999, Safeco Field. He was even on hand for a game in
1993 during Ken Griffey Jr.’s record-tying eight-game home run streak.
While O’Flaherty does not feel any extra pressure being a hometown hero in the
organization, he does admit it would be extra special if he makes it to the
“I just look at it like any other player,” O’Flaherty said. “Being from
Washington it will be just that much more cool playing there.”
The Timber Rattlers coaching staff think O’Flaherty has a good chance of finding
out how it will feel. O’Flaherty has a fastball in the mid-90s, a tough slider
and is developing a change. But O’Flaherty knows there are still several areas
of his game where he can improve. The main areas: delivery and location.
O’Flaherty has been working with Timber Rattlers pitching coach Brad Holman on a
more consistent delivery and improving his location. Both Holman and Timber
Rattlers manager Steve Roadcap see location as the young pitcher’s biggest area
for improvement. They would be happy to hear that O’Flaherty has been paying
attention to the right model – Mariners’ southpaw Jamie Moyer.
“I like his determination and how focused he is on every single pitch,”
O’Flaherty said of the M’s veteran ace. “He doesn’t really try to blow it by
guys, he just knows his location is going to do the job.”
O’Flaherty has been up and down in his three starts so far. He has recorded
three strikeouts in 7.2 innings pitched and still doesn’t have a decisions for
the 2004 season. But, then again, it’s still only late April, and the future
remains bright for O’Flaherty.
“It’s very early in his development yet so he’s got a ways to go, but it’s a
long year and he’s gonna probably have another 20 -25 more starts,” Roadcap
said. “I’m sure he’ll learn every time he goes out there.”
O’Flaherty has already experienced the challenges of pitching in the elements of
a Wisconsin spring. His start on Sunday April 18 against the Peoria Chiefs
featured strong gusts of wind. After a rough first inning, O’Flaherty allowed
only one unearned run in the next two before exiting the game in the fourth.
O’Flaherty did manage to keep the ball in the park while the Timber Rattlers hit
three home runs.
Being away from home has not been a problem for O’Flaherty. He sees it as part
of the game and is able to stay in touch with parents who listen to all of his
starts over the internet.
Making the jump from high school to pro ball has had its challenges and
benefits, and while the hitters are more disciplined and better at exploiting
pitchers’ mistakes, the defense is much improved.
The young O’Flaherty, still years away from playing in Safeco Field, says he has
his mind set on one career goal.
“To make it to the big leagues and get a couple rings,” he says.
That’s something the people in the state of Washington would like to see too.