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River Hill Grad Has Closed the Deal as Orioles Prospect

David Walters is an All-Star for the Delmarva Shorebirds.

David Walters walked off the pitcher's mound and gave a short pump with his right fist to celebrate another successful outing.

The right-handed pitcher and River Hill High graduate then shook hands with his catcher, Michael Ohlman, and other teammates in the third-base dugout late Tuesday night at Perdue Stadium in Salisbury.

It was a scene that is becoming all too common this minor league baseball season: Walters, a prospect for the Baltimore Orioles, had just pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his team.

But this game had a twist, as Walters was the last pitcher used by the North All-Stars against the South in the annual mid-season South Atlantic League All-Star Game, which was held this year at the home of the Delmarva Shorebirds.

"It is special to be here," Walters said Tuesday, standing near the third-base dugout. "Making the team was an honor."

Walters, playing on his home field, was the only Maryland resident on either team. And he entered the All-Star contest as the league leader in saves with 17, a heady feat for a player who was not even drafted after his senior year at Division II Francis Marion University in South Carolina in 2009.

"I feel like I have done pretty well," said Walters, who grew up in Marriottsville. "I'm just trying to throw strikes and keep the same attitude as the past. I am trying to command my fastball a little better, get ahead of the hitters and throw strikes."

Walters did not get a save Tuesday, since he'd entered in a game in which the North was losing, 6-3, to the South. That was the final score as the South beat a North team that featured top prospects Manny Machado, with Delmarva, and Bryce Harper, the slugging outfielder in the Washington Nationals' chain. 

"He is a very smart pitcher. He is a very good pitcher," said Machado, the top shortstop prospect for the Orioles who was promoted to high Class A Frederick of the Carolina League after the All-Star game. Machado and Walters had been sharing an apartment with other players during the first half of the season. "We are pretty good friends," Machado said.

Walters, a starting pitcher at Francis Marion, throws a fastball in the low 90s with a heavy sink and also has a slider and a change-up. He said he relies on his fastball most of the time.

Early in the season, he had some rough outings which bumped up his ERA. "You have to have a short memory. I will dwell on it for five minutes, then move on," he said of being a closer.

He had one stretch earlier this season when he got a save or win in nine straight appearances. Walters, 23, is 1-3 with an ERA of 4.32 in 21 games with Delmarva, which picks up the season June 23-26 at Lakewood in New Jersey.

One of the challenges for Walters, or any minor league player, is enduring long bus rides and staying in hotels that are certainly not five-star caliber.

Prior to the All-Star break the team bus of the Shorebirds broke down after a series against Kannapolis, in North Carolina.

On Easter Sunday the Shorebirds arrived in Salisbury at about 10 a.m. after a ride of about 13 hours through the night following a series in Augusta, GA. Many players were watching a movie during the trip, but when the power went out and the movie went off several of the Shorebirds played cards through the wee hours of the morning.

"It is a grind," said Walters. But the payoff can be huge: the next step up in the minor league system of the Orioles is Frederick, then Class AA Bowie and then Class AAA Norfolk before the ultimate goal of Camden Yards.

Walters is not the only Howard County product pitching in the South Atlantic League, a low Class A circuit, trying to work his way up to The Show. And two players from the county are just one step below the major league level.

Scott Swinson (Centennial), a former Maryland Terp, is with the Greenville (SC) Drive in the Boston Red Sox farm system. He was 2-1 with an ERA of 3.03 at the All-Star break in 11 games, with two starts.

Steve Lombardozzi (Atholton) began this season as an infielder for the Harrisburg (PA) Senators, a farm team of the Nationals. He was promoted earlier this week to Class AAA Syracuse and is one stop from the big leagues. "Lombo" had one hit in four at bats in his first game with Syracuse on Tuesday.

Lefty pitcher Mike O'Connor, who is from Ellicott City, is with Class AAA Buffalo, which like Syracuse is in the International League. Buffalo hosts Syracuse July 2-3. O'Connor, who pitched earlier this season with the Mets, was 2-1 with an ERA of 5.61 in his first 15 games with Buffalo; he allowed four runs in three innings against Orioles' farm club Norfolk on June 18.

Drew Permison (Oakland Mills) was drafted in the 42nd round out of Towson University last year by the Toronto Blue Jays. He made his pro debut with Auburn in the New York-Penn League and recorded seven saves and he began this year with Lansing in the low Class A Midwest League.

He was then sent down to Vancouver in the Northwest League, where he picked up his second save in two games on Monday with another scoreless outing.

Pitcher Mike Anton (River Hill), a former minor leaguer with the Angels, was released by Evansville in the Frontier League the same day Walters pitched in the All-Star game. Born in Germany, Anton played in college at VMI and was drafted by the Angels in 2007.

Columbia's Ryan Kemp, a closer in college this spring for St. Joseph's of Philadelphia, was drafted in early June by the Reds in the 14th round and assigned to Billings in the Pioneer League.

Shortstop Nick Natoli (Mount St. Joseph's), from Ellicott City, was signed as a non-drafted free agent earlier this month by the Boston Red Sox after a four-year career at Towson University. He has been assigned to the Gulf Coast League in Florida.

Like Walters, all of them hope to move up the ladder in the minor leagues and make it to the majors. For now, Walters has experienced a mid-season All-Star game at the level.

Before Tuesday's game he was able to hear Andy MacPhail, the general manager of the Orioles, as the featured speaker at the All-Star luncheon in Salisbury. And among the sellout crowd at the game Tuesday was Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who led the Orioles to the World Series title in 1970 against the Reds.

MacPhail, in reality, is the boss of Walters even though John Stockstill is the direct of player development for the Orioles. "It was nice to hear his stories," Walters said of MacPhail, "and what they look for in a minor league player."

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