I don’t know how many followers of Orioles Nation pay much attention to catchers in Low A, but this story is about much more than that. Everyone loves to root for an underdog, and despite his draft status and over slot bonus, Michael Ohlman has to be looked at as an underdog given his performance through the 2011 season.
Michael was drafted as an 18 YO Catcher out of high school in the 11th round of the 2009 draft. He signed for just under $1 million dollars. He made a quick appearance for a few games in 2009 and spent early 2010 in FL. When SS broke camp he joined Bluefield before finishing off with 34 games at Delmarva. 2011 had him slated to be the primary catcher for the Shorebirds and he played in 105 games hitting just .224 with 4 HR. Additionally, rumblings around the club house said that pitchers did not like having him behind the plate. He threw out just 25% of runners and did not show well defensively committing 16 errors. Certainly not what the Orioles or their fans expected for the money invested.
Despite all this, Michael was asked to join the big club in spring training as a non roster invitee simply because of the number of pitchers the club invited, and the need to have a volume of catchers to work them out. Things were great from a baseball perspective since for Michael spring training is practically in his back yard.
Then March 6th happened. Michael had attended a team workout and was heading to the mall afterwards. Another driver failed to see Michael and cut him off, sending his truck rolling again and again. Luckily, this wasn’t just anyone in the truck, it was a young athlete, and that coupled with the fact he had his seatbelt on saved his life. Now understand, Michael didn’t always wear his seatbelt, but as fate would have it, Michael lost 2 friends from high school just three months earlier. On Christmas Day 2011, those friends were thrown from a truck, not wearing their seatbelts and were killed. Michael who wears a pair of braclets on his right wrist in memory of the 2, and since then, buckles up religiously.
The fact he was able to get on the field following that accident is enough to rate him as the comeback player of the year. The way in which he did it is nothing short of a miracle.