Draft picks Nowak and Oliveira set for Aberdeen start

For some players recently taken in the First-Year Player Draft, life can move pretty fast these days.

They were drafted last week, signed quickly and now head to a strange town to meet new teammates and begin life as a pro in their new organizations.

Of the nine 2010 draft picks on the Aberdeen IronBirds roster right now, Jeremy Nowak and Joe Oliveira are the highest drafted picks currently with the team.

Nowak, a switch-hitting outfielder, was taken in Round 13 out of Division II Mount Olive College in North Carolina.

Just last week he was drafted and this Friday he'll be on the IronBirds' Opening Day roster.

"Since I can remember, I've always wanted to play professionally. It really hasn't sunk in yet that I am here, but it will," the 22-year-old Nowak said.

"I had a good conversation with (O's scout) Dominic Viola in North Carolina. He followed me some this year. Then I went to (a pre-draft) workout at Camden Yards and did pretty well. I am glad to be here.

"I started off at Stony Brook and I didn't really play much there, so I transferred to Mount Olive my senior year. Got some good playing time, great coaches and learned a lot. That helped me get here."

Nowak, from Cheektowaga, New York, hit .446 with 17 homers and 81 RBI in 52 games over 222 at bats for Mount Olive. He also stole 26 bases.

"Our hitting coach there was great. I was confident with my talent, but he helped me a lot with the mental side of the game and my approach. That helped me with the season I had.

"He worked with me on my patience and getting a good pitch to hit. I was overly aggressive coming from my old school and he helped me make adjustments."

He's a switch hitter, but Nowak doesn't prefer one side of the plate over the other.

"I don't have a favorite, I work on both evenly, that's part of being a switch hitter."

The 22-year-old Oliveira was taken in round 15 from Pacific University. He was a fifth-year senior this season after missing all of the 2009 season after shoulder surgery.

"I am completely fine now. It was a biceps tendon tear and repair and it was only a six-month recovery and I was back in time for fall ball."

Oliveira was not surprised it was the Orioles selecting him.

"I was actually offered by the Orioles during the draft after my junior year but it wasn't enough for me to skip my senior year. The Orioles have always been interested in me, I think. I was talking to them a lot before the draft."

Despite batting .332-5-29 this year, and leading the team in average, hits and runs, Oliveira, like most catchers, thinks defense first.

"I'm definitely a defensive catcher. I think I handle pitchers well. I'm a pretty good receiver and blocker and throw out some runners. I actually have pretty good speed for a catcher. I batted leadoff in college and led the team in steals for three years. That's a different element than catchers usually have."

Earlier this week, Oliveira, a San Diego native, was enjoying not only his first trip ever to Maryland, but his first trip ever to the East Coast.

Some college catchers need to adjust to calling pitches in pro ball, but that is not an issue for Oliveira.

"I've called pitches the last three years and it's something I take pride in. I love it, you have to become a student of the game. It's fun for me and makes the game more exciting."

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