Image credit: Eric O'Flaherty (Photo by Logan Riley/Atlanta Braves via Getty Images)
“From Phenom to the Farm” will drop new episodes every Tuesday, starting today, featuring players whose experiences vary across the professional baseball spectrum. Players will discuss their personal experiences going from high school graduation to the life of a professional baseball player.
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Barely two years after graduating high school, Eric O’Flaherty’s young career was at a crossroads.
O’Flaherty repeated low-A in 2015 and his second time through the league wasn’t going any better than his first, posting a 6.12 ERA over 10 starts and 57.1 innings. A move to the bullpen didn’t improve things, either, and his ERA remained north of 6.00. On top of that, his mental approach wasn’t helping his cause.
“I just wasn’t accountable, and I wasn’t very mature, and it showed a lot of different ways,” O’Flaherty recalled.
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At just 20 years old, the 2003 Mariners sixth round pick from Walla Walla High School was in danger of becoming a non-prospect before he reached his 21st birthday. The turnaround that sent O’Flaherty on a trajectory to accumulating over 400 big league innings is something he can attribute back to a single game in the minor leagues, when he stormed off the mound following a rough outing.
His pitching coach in low-A Wisconsin, former big leaguer Brad Holman, took it upon himself to not let O’Flaherty’s career fall by the wayside without a fight (almost literally).
On the bench throughout the rest of the game and in a bullpen session the next morning, Holman served as O’Flaherty’s version of Mr. Miyagi, changing his approach both on the mound and especially with how he carried himself off it. Overnight O’Flaherty’s career path flipped.
“I matured a ton in about a 24-hour period,” he said.
O’Flaherty finished the 2005 season with a 3.75 ERA and 13 saves. A little over a year later, he was pitching for the Mariners in the big leagues.
In the first episode of “From Phenom to the Farm,” Baseball America’s interview series chronicling the experience of high school signees, 10-year big leaguer Eric O’Flaherty details his journey from popping up as a prospect in the fall of 2002 to his final outing with Atlanta in 2017.
O’Flaherty breaks down his draft day experience (and perhaps how to not handle your draft day phone calls), some less than ideal MiLB travel & ballpark conditions, and gives his thoughts on how clubhouse culture contributes to player success.
The competition jump, adjusting to life on their own for the first time, handling money, learning professionalism, and other various aspects that a player encounters on their journey through the farm system. They’ll look back and provide insight on what they could’ve done, if anything, to be more prepared for life as a teenage professional athlete, and their opinions on what organizations should be doing to get the most out of their high school signees.
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