When the noise gets too loud at Camden Yards this weekend or a moment gets too intense, Ryan Flaherty might play a little game with himself. He’ll imagine he’s 17 years old, back at Harlow Field behind Deering High School and playing baseball for the pure fun of swinging a bat and catching a ball.

“It’s a game,” said Flaherty, who plays third base, as well as five other positions for the Baltimore Orioles. “The same game I played as a kid. Sometimes guys forget.”

He says he won’t.

The American League Championship Series begins Friday in Baltimore. The Kansas City Royals are in town for the best-of-seven playoff with the winner moving on to the World Series. It’s a pinch-me moment for fans of both teams. The Orioles last played in the ALCS in 1997, the Royals in 1985 when Kansas City won the World Series.

The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs this season after winning the 2013 World Series. That should make it easier for Maine fans to adopt Flaherty and the Orioles, if only for October. He’s 28, the three-sport athlete who grew up in Portland and dreamed of playing in the big leagues. Many share the dream, but Baseball Reference.com lists only 77 Maine-born major league players going back to 1872.

Flaherty is one of a much smaller group of about 10 who have played in the postseason. Red Sox fans remember Bob Stanley, of course, who was born in Portland, and maybe they’ve heard of Bill Carrigan, the Lewiston native who won the World Series as a player-manager for the Red Sox in 1915 and 1916.

Flaherty says the baseball buzz in Baltimore has been escalating as the Orioles won the American League East and then swept the Detroit Tigers with three victories in the American League Division Series. A city starved for baseball success during a recent 14-year drought got a taste in 2012 when the Orioles made the playoffs and Flaherty was a rookie.

“We lost a whole generation of young fans,” said Mike Bordick, the Hampden Academy and University of Maine star shortstop who started calling Baltimore his home after three seasons with the Orioles in the late 1990s. “Now you can walk anywhere, go into any business and feel the excitement.”

Bordick was in the 2000 World Series, playing with the New York Mets. He’s involved in player development for the Orioles and does some broadcasting. “It’s going to be exciting,” he said. “I still get worked up and the expectations do get high.

“I work with Ryan and certainly we talk. I guarantee, to a man, this team can block out the distractions and settle in and play a ballgame.”

That Flaherty excelled in baseball wasn’t a surprise. His father, Ed, is the longtime baseball coach at the University of Southern Maine. In fact, young Flaherty was the 11-year-old batboy when the Huskies won the NCAA Division III championship in 1977.

Last Friday, Flaherty played third base and started the ninth-inning double play in Detroit that ended the game and that division series.

“It was surreal,” Flaherty said. “The noise, the (Tigers) fans waving their white rally towels and then going silent. We’re on the road, and just being one of 25 guys and able to do this was special.”

Flaherty has caught his breath, even if Baltimore fans haven’t.

“It’s been really loud in October (at Camden Yards),” he said. “It’s hard to explain. Fenway is a different kind of loud. In Baltimore, it feels like the fans are on top of you. After a big play you can see the stadium shaking.”

Flaherty said Wednesday that he didn’t know if he’d be in the starting lineup for Game 1. With the season-ending injury to second-year star third baseman Manny Machado, Flaherty has gotten more consistent playing time at third. Earlier in the season, manager Buck Showalter didn’t hesitate to play Flaherty at second or shortstop or in the outfield.

Flaherty was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round of the 2008 draft. He made his major league debut with the Orioles on April 7, 2012. Moving from one organization to another can be difficult, but the Cubs are still years away from contending for the National League playoffs.

The Orioles have arrived. Family and friends from Maine will be in Camden Yards. Finding tickets for them wasn’t too difficult.

Flaherty misses the one man who can’t be in the ballpark. Edward Flaherty, his grandfather, died several years ago.

“Baseball, football, he didn’t miss any of my games,” said Flaherty, who understood why his dad couldn’t get away from his USM team in the spring. “I think of my grandfather a lot. I know he’ll be watching.”

So will Mainers. Ryan Flaherty is one of them.


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