Ryan Flaherty doesn’t waste any words when talking about playing Triple-A baseball.

“No one wants to be at this level, it’s the worst level in baseball,” said Flaherty, the Portland native and seven-year major league veteran. “No one is happy. You’ve either played in the majors and think you should be there or you’re a young kid who’s a step away.”

And then, without hesitation, he added, “But I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve embraced it. It’s fun to watch the whole thing unfold.”

Flaherty, who turns 33 on July 27, is playing for the Columbus Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. A career .216 hitter in 533 major league games, Flaherty was hitting .275 for the Clippers with 10 home runs, 48 RBI, 44 runs and an OPS of .850 entering Wednesday night’s game in Toledo. He’s played all four infield positions, committing three errors in 67 games.

Portland native Ryan Flaherty is batting .275 with 10 home runs and 48 RBI for the Columbus Clippers this season. Mathew Carper photo

“It’s been fun,” said Flaherty, who will join his wife, Ashley, in Portland over the All-Star break next week. “I’m getting a little different perspective of the game. The last time I was in Triple-A, I was what, 23, 24? And I had a different perspective on baseball back then.

“Now I appreciate the learning aspect of the game, as opposed to worrying about how many hits you get; I appreciate some of the smaller stuff in the game.”

His manager at Columbus, Tony Mansolino, certainly appreciates having Flaherty on his roster. The two met at Vanderbilt University. Mansolino had graduated just as Flaherty was entering the school, but he came back to work out in the offseason. The two became close friends.

“Ryan’s a good player,” said Mansolino. “No. 1, he can hit. And there’s some power there. He can play defense, he can catch the ball. He knows how to play the game. The last seven years, you probably haven’t really got a chance to see what type of player he is because he hasn’t been on the field enough. Now he’s playing and we’re getting production from him. And he has all the intangibles. He’s an unbelievable clubhouse leader.”

Flaherty was the 41st player selected in the 2008 draft by the Chicago Cubs. In 2011, he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. Over the next six years, Flaherty earned a niche under Manager Buck Showalter as a utility player. He became a free agent after the 2017 season.

Last year, Flaherty played 81 games for the Atlanta Braves, but was not re-signed. He signed with the Cleveland Indians as a minor-league free agent in February.

Mansolino said he’s waiting for the phone call that’s going to bring Flaherty back to the major league level. Flaherty doesn’t worry about that.

“You know, who knows?” he said. “You show up to play. It’s like I’ve come full circle. The last time I was (in Triple-A), I was worried about this, worried about that. One of the things I’ve learned, whether here or up there, you can’t worry about things you can’t control. I’m just trying to enjoy this as much as possible.

“Who knows how long this game will last? I feel re-energized by the younger kids, who haven’t been there yet. You forget when you’re up there that there are kids working their way up that have this dream. It’s been good being around them.”

The game, Flaherty said, is the same. You arrive at the ballpark the same time, you play for the same amount of time, you go home at the same time. Transportation? That’s different – and the one thing Flaherty isn’t thrilled about. Triple-A teams travel by bus, not planes.

“They’re tolerable,” he said. “But some of the rides are for 10 hours and those are dicey.”

Mansolino said Flaherty has some traits that will take him far in baseball if he wants to stay in the game once he’s finished playing.

“It’s just the way he thinks about the game, he thinks about it like a coach and I’m sure that comes from his dad,” said Mansolino, speaking of University of Southern Maine Coach Ed Flaherty. “Ryan has an interest in the nuances in baseball, he likes to talk about the small things that make up the game.”

Flaherty said Mansolino has been a big influence on him this year. “Just being around him,” said Flaherty. “Situations happen every night in a game and he’ll come up to me and ask what are my thoughts on the play. I like that.”

So maybe he’ll coach, like his dad, pass his knowledge along. He has already been in touch with fellow Deering grad Trejyn Fletcher, who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the second round of the recent MLB draft. “I talk to him every now and then,” said Flaherty. “It’s fun to watch other kids from Maine get this opportunity.”

Flaherty knows he’ll have to make that decision sometime, maybe soon.

“I’ve talked about it, obviously, to my dad and people close to me,” he said. “I’m fortunate to still be playing at 32. Obviously there is life after baseball. We’ll see what that entails. At this point, staying in the game in some capacity is something I’d like to do.”




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