The logical progression for Ryan Flaherty would have been to join the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A team in Norfolk, Virginia. But the Orioles gave him an option.

“I had a choice, Norfolk or Portland, Maine,” Flaherty said, making a face that declared it was no choice at all.

“It was a no-brainer. I’m lucky I play for a manager with a big heart.”

Orioles Manager Buck Showalter knows how much Portland means to Flaherty – and vice versa – and gave Flaherty a chance to go home for the weekend, when the Orioles’ Double-A team, the Bowie Baysox, was playing a series at the Portland Sea Dogs.

Ryan Flaherty, the former Deering High star, returned Friday night to Hadlock Field, scoring for the Bowie Baysox while rehabbing for his return to the Baltimore Orioles.

“Got in at 2 a.m. (to his house in Falmouth), up at 10, and went over to my mom and dad’s house for breakfast,” Flaherty said. “My wife is flying up (Saturday). It should be fun.

“If I’m not going to be (in the major leagues), this is a pretty cool alternative in the meantime. I’m looking forward to getting back, but I’m definitely going to enjoy these couple of games.”

Flaherty, 31, a utility player for the Orioles, is on a rehab assignment, combing back from right shoulder tendinitis that shelved him in May. It’s the first extended injury in Flaherty’s career.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “Actually, one of the only other injuries I had was on the football field behind here. I hurt my collarbone.”

Flaherty was the Deering High quarterback, playing some games at Fitzpatrick Stadium. He also played basketball at the neighboring Expo.

But baseball was king and Flaherty excelled – high school player of the year, college All-American, and now in his sixth year in the major leagues.

Because Flaherty can become a free agent after this year, 2017 is a key season in determining his future worth. But Flaherty indicated free agency was not on his mind, only health.

Former Deering High School player Ryan Flaherty of the Bowie Baysox attempts to throw out a Sea Dog runner at Hadlock Field.

“Any time you get hurt, it’s frustrating,” he said.

Numbers-wise, Flaherty never has appeared marketable, with a career .216 average. But Showalter always has coveted Flaherty’s ability to play any position. Flaherty also is a better hitter in the clutch (.259 average with runners in scoring position).

Yet Flaherty always is asked about his place on the roster.

“You know what? Show up, play hard and whatever happens is going to happen,” he said. “From a professional baseball standpoint, it’s one of the most challenging things for a player – even a kid playing here – trying to control things you can’t.

“You can really only show up, have a good attitude and play hard. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.”

To treat “the kids” on the Bowie Baysox, Flaherty is following tradition and paying for the postgame meal. Among the delights will be lobster rolls, of course.

Who figured Flaherty would be picking up the check 15 years ago when he first started toiling at Hadlock as a Deering underclassman? As a junior, in 2004, Flaherty played in a memorable state championship game – featuring future major league pitchers Ryan Reid (Deering) and Mark Rogers (Mt. Ararat) – won by the Rams, 6-1.

“A lot of good memories on this field,” he said.

His final high school game at Hadlock was in the 2005 playoffs.

Former Deering High School player Ryan Flaherty warms up with the Bowie Baysox.

“I made an error in it. It wasn’t good,” Flaherty said.

In that game, Deering led Portland 6-3 in the sixth inning. The Bulldogs had runners on second and third and two outs. Flaherty charged a bouncer over the mound. He anticipated another bounce, but instead the ball scooted under his glove. Three hits followed and Portland won, 9-6.

Flaherty can go in detail about the play – “I haven’t forgotten.”

But the good times – and the good plays – far outnumber the bad. Anytime Flaherty is on a baseball field is a good time. He discovered that this summer, beginning his rehab in the Orioles’ Florida complex in Sarasota.

“It’s challenging, mentally more than physically,” he said. “You’re down there in Sarasota. You’re away from the team. You feel kind of helpless. And you miss playing.

“You don’t think about it until you actually stop but – you know what? – it’s fun to be out there.”

And it would be fun to be in a chase for the playoffs. Entering Friday, the Orioles were 53-55, 3½ games out of the second wild-card spot.

“Our best days are ahead of us,” Flaherty said. “We’re in the hunt, keeping our head above water and hopefully making a push soon.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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