SALISBURY, Md. - There are seven first-round draft picks on the rosters here for the South Atlantic League All-Star game, but Single-A Delmarva reliever David Walters is not among them.
The 23-year-old, right-hander, who leads the league with 17 saves, was actually signed by the Orioles as a free agent in June, 2009 after the draft out of Francis Marion University in South Carolina. He saw 50 rounds come and go and his name was not called.
"I just wanted an opportunity and glad the Orioles gave me that chance. I've been working really hard and I just want to prove myself," Walters, a Baltimore native, said. Walters is a 2005 graduate of River Hill High School near Baltimore in Howard County.
He actually was drafted by the Braves in round 47 in June of 2008, but went back to school and the Orioles signed him a year later. He said not being selected in the draft serves as a constant motivator for him.
"Yeah, definitely. Even if I was drafted, only a very select few get the opportunity to play pro ball," he said. "I have just always had a work ethic to try and prove myself. Out of high school, I've always been kind of the underdog."
Walters is 1-3 with an ERA of 3.68 and 17 saves in 20 chances. Over 29 1/3, he has walked nine and fanned 22 with a batting average against of .263
"Mainly, just throwing strikes and having confidence in my defense," he cited as keys to his good season. "I'm not a big strikeout closer, I just try to let them put the ball in play and trust my defense.
"This is exciting, my first professional All-Star game. It was a goal to make it here and I did it. Just good to be a part of it and let everything soak in."
Walters said he relies 85 to 90 percent of the time on a heavy sinker with a velocity of 90-92. He also works in a slider and sometimes a changeup. He has a pretty remarkable 2.82 ground to air-out ratio.
Walters, who pitched at Delmarva last year going 2-1 with a 4.91 ERA and four saves, has had a very strong June. He has recorded four saves in four chances with an ERA of 1.23.
He has produced 13 saves in his last 14 chances and might get a chance to save this game tonight in front of his hometown, Shorebird fans.
"It will mean a lot. Always a good thing to be at home in an All-Star game. I've heard I will get in the latter part of the game," Walters said.