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'Birds' Walters represents Maryland06/21/2011 7:48 PM ET
By David Driver / Special to MLB.com
SALISBURY, Md. -- The South Atlantic League All-Star Game had a strong Orioles' feel Tuesday on the Eastern Shore.
Baltimore general manager Andy MacPhail addressed the players at a luncheon before they got to Perdue Stadium. Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who led the Orioles to a World Series title in 1970, signed autographs for a long line of fans before the game.
And the annual exhibition took place at the home of the Delmarva Shorebirds, where former Orioles third baseman Ryan Minor is the manager for the Baltimore affiliate and a year-round resident of Salisbury with his family.
All of this made the event extra special for Delmarva closer and Baltimore native David Walters, 23, the only Maryland resident on either team.
"I did not know that," said Walters, standing on the field before batting practice Tuesday afternoon. "It is special to be here."
A graduate of River Hill High School in Clarksville, Md., about 17 miles south of Camden Yards in Baltimore, Walters was 1-3, 3.68 with a league-high 17 saves in the first half of the season for the Shorebirds.
The North pitching staff included players chosen in the 26th round (Chris Manno, Hagerstown), 36th (Jay Rogers, Greensboro) and 42nd (Jacob Pettit, Delmarva). But the story for Walters, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, is just as compelling.
He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 47th round in 2008, but decided to pitch during the 2009 season for Francis Marion, a Division II school in South Carolina. Walters was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Orioles in 2009 after his senior year at Francis Marion. In his first pro year he played in the Gulf Coast League, for Bluefield in the Appalachian League and for Aberdeen in the New York-Penn League.
Walters had three saves as a closer for Aberdeen and then was promoted at the end of the season to Delmarva, where he was 2-1 with four saves and a 4.91 ERA in 22 games.
He began this year back with the Shorebirds. One of his roommates is shortstop Manny Machado, another All-Star on Tuesday. "He is a very smart pitcher. He is a very good pitcher," said Machado, the top shortstop prospect for the Orioles.
Walters, a starter in college, 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 about 85 percent of the time.
"I feel like I have done pretty well," he said. "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."
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.
In his only appearance against Nationals' prospect Bryce Harper this season, he said he fanned the Hagerstown slugger on three pitches. On Tuesday they were teammates on the North squad in the All-Star Game, an unlikely pairing of a first-round pick and a non-drafted free agent with teams based in Maryland.
Not long for the league: Two of the top prospects in the midseason classic, Harper and Machado, would seem to be in line for promotions to the Carolina League.
But no official word had been made by the Nationals or Orioles before the game. "Right now he is a Hagerstown Sun," Nationals' director of player development Doug Harris said in a telephone interview from Florida on Tuesday afternoon.
"You are hoping to move up," Machado before the game.
"I will let the higher powers figure that out," Harper added. "I will do whatever they want me to do."
The Derby champion: Lexington catcher Chris Wallace, from Texas, won the Home Run Derby with 20 longballs before the game. He clubbed four in the first round, nine in the second and seven in the third.
Asheville outfielder Kyle Parker was the runner-up with six dingers in the first round, four in the second and two in the third.
As Wallace, the 16th-round pick in 2010, accepted a check for $500, he was videotaped by Lexington teammate and South All-Star Jiovanni Mier, an infielder from Las Vegas. Wallace hit .285 with 14 homers in the first half.
Bucking the trend: Florida resident Weaver, the former manager of the Orioles who turns 81 in August, said in an interview before the game that he would not be pulling a Jack McKeon, 80, who returned to manage the Florida Marlins. "There is no way I can come back," he said with a smile.
Weaver also was asked about Machado, the promising shortstop with Delmarva. "Sign all of the shortstops you can. They are the best athletes on the team," said Weaver, noting that Mickey Mantle was once a shortstop.