Appalachian League notebook

Ohlman gets taste of Class A before settling in with Orioles

Michael Ohlman appeared in 34 games for Delmarva to open the season. (Tom Priddy/

By Bob Sutton / Special to | July 2, 2010 5:21 AM ET

Michael Ohlman is back with guys closer to his age in the Appalachian League, but he figures his experience in a full-season league has made him wiser.

The 20-year-old catcher for the Bluefield Orioles is the highest Draft pick on the team's roster. Yet 2010 marks his first go of it as a pro, outside of four Gulf Coast League games last season after signing at the August deadline.

"It was good just playing," Ohlman said of his time with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the Class A South Atlantic League. "Now I'm playing with kids my own age."

Ohlman wasn't sure what direction to take after he was selected in the 11th round of the 2009 Draft out of the University of Miami.

"It definitely was [a difficult decision]," he said, "or it wouldn't have taken so long."

A native of Bradenton, Fla., Ohlman had the comfort of starting his career in Sarasota, where the Orioles have their Spring headquarters. He didn't live at home, which was about a 20-minute drive away, but the location had its advantages for a player beginning a new stage in life.

"It was definitely pretty convenient to start out," said Ohlman.

In 34 games this year with Delmarva, Ohlman hit .174 with two home runs and 17 RBIs. He said he's reaping benefits from that experience.

"It just slows everything down here," he said.

For now, Ohlman stands out among Bluefield catchers with his 6-foot-4 frame. He said his list of areas for improvement to address is endless.

"Just every little thing," he said. "Everyone has talent here, and you have to improve on everything. I'm just trying to be one of 30 catchers [to start in the big leagues]."

Ohlman had one of those learning moments a week into the Appalachian League season. He doubled in the second inning at Burlington for the team's only hit in the first eight innings, but he didn't return behind the plate for the bottom of the frame after he was pulled. His effort running to third base on the final out wasn't deemed up to standards.

"You have to be professional," said Ohlman, who's hitting .240 with three doubles and five RBIs in 25 at-bats. He added that playing under manager Einar Diaz, a former Major League catcher, has been a great learning experience that will directly aid his development.

In brief

All about the champs: The defending champion Danville Braves opened with a 5-0 record -- all on the road -- until losing at Bluefield. Danville reliever Tyler Hess had an impressive outing on June 26, striking out five in two innings. In a rematch of last year's championship series, Elizabethton won two of three games during Danville's first home series.

Catching on this time: Greeneville Astros catcher Bubby Williams, a returning player to the Appalachian League, has four home runs in his first four starts this year. Last year, he had four home runs in 39 total games. His fast start comes despite missing time after a ball hit his throwing hand while he was behind the plate during the season-opening series at Burlington.

Small power package: The smallest player on the Burlington Royals roster has some of the biggest pop in his bat. Luis Piterson, a 155-pound second baseman, has hit four of the team's first nine home runs. That includes a grand slam against Bluefield to close a three-game homestand. "I feel good about it, but I'm not a power hitter," Piterson said. "I'm not trying to [hit home runs]. ... I never hit a grand slam in my life." In the series opener against Bluefield Piterson needed only a triple for the cycle after his first three at-bats, but was hit by a pitch his next time up. He ended the first week of play with a .619 batting average (13-for-21).

Near no-no: Greeneville pitcher Angel Gonzalez threw six no-hit innings before he was removed in a seven-inning game as part of a doubleheader against Kingsport. The Mets broke through with three hits off reliever B.J. Hagen, including Javier Rodriguez's double that broke up the no-hit bid. Greeneville got more solid starting pitching the next night when Ruben Alaniz scattered three hits and a walk over five innings in a 2-0 victory against host Kingsport.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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