For many, it is hard to live in the shadow of one of their siblings. For Michael Flacco, brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, though, being in Fredrick, Md. as a member of the Baltimore Orioles’ High-A Frederick Keys is secondary to living near his brother, as it is an opportunity for him to accomplish one of his dreams.
A 31st-round selection by the O’s in the 2009 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Flacco took an non-traditional path to professional baseball. A football and baseball player in high school, Flacco suffered a back injury that ultimately forced him to stop all athletics. The back injury led to a hip injury and before he knew it, it had been two years since he done any athletic activity.
“I had gone through a fifth year of high school to play football and baseball and I hurt my back and kind of played through it,” Flacco said through the crackle of a cellphone. “Then for the next couple of years I had some back problems that went along with the injury I had and I had some hip problems from when I finally got over my back problems. My hips were so tight I hurt my hips a couple times.”
Describing himself as a late maturing football player, Flacco wasn’t recruited to play football by any schools. He reached a point in his life where he needed to decide what he wanted to do with his life and in athletics. For him at least, picking baseball was an easy decision to make.
“I don’t know,” Flacco responded when asked why he picked baseball over football. “I think always growing up, I just always, I always went towards baseball, it was always my favorite game.”
His injury bug prevented him from being able to achieve his baseball dreams as fast as he probably would have wanted though. After taking two years off from athletic activity, because of his injuries, his brother helped him get an in down in the Baltimore area. He would eventually enroll at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville and it gave Flacco a chance to play baseball, but also get himself noticed.
“A couple years down the line I didn’t go to school anywhere because I didn’t want to waste my eligibility while I wasn’t going to be able to play. I finally started to get healthy and Joe was drafted by the Ravens and through a connection with Joe, they hooked me up with a guy named Tim Bishop, who was actually the Orioles’ Strength and Conditioning [Coach] for I think 15-years,” Flacco said about how he ended up at CCBC. “I worked out with him for the summer, he was trying to get me some workouts and he knew a coach down at Catonsville and obviously I was looking to play baseball and he [said it was a] good program and a good place. You are right in the Orioles backyard obviously and it was an opportunity for me to go play and hopefully [for] somebody [to] see me [from] the Orioles … and the Orioles ended up coming to see me and that is how that kind of worked out”
After putting up solid numbers at CCBC, Flacco found himself in position to be drafted by a major league baseball team. Even though he knew he wasn’t going to be one of the top players taken, the draft wasn’t any less stressful.
“The second day [of the draft] I think was rounds 2-30, which I really had no idea when I might go but I was hoping to go second half of that day and I was kind of stressed out a little bit, really hoping to go on that day,” Flacco said about waiting to be drafted. “My mom and Dad were watching the Internet all day long and I was kind of like not trying to pay attention to it, but at the same time was hoping they would call me or come get me and tell me someone had picked me.”
No one eventually called and Flacco was discouraged. With so many factors potentially working against him, the now third day draft prospect was starting to doubt whether or not he would even be picked by a team. Even though he may have been discouraged, teams weren’t turned off of him like he worried.
“I was kind of crushed that day, thinking, you know part of my frustration of being a 22-year-old guy [was] would someone even want to take a shot on me in the second part of the day,” Flacco said. “So then, I was just sitting around my house early the next morning hoping to get a call early at some point that day. My mom got all excited because the Orioles’ first pick went up on the online thing and it was my name and it was pretty exciting.”
Of course, with Flacco ending up in the Orioles’ organization, the next logical question is about his brother and what it is like to be so close to him.
“Yeah you know what, its funny because right now a lot of people are fans of Joe and you know they have had success, thank God, so playing close to Baltimore most people like me, because they like Joe thank God,” Flacco said about living close to his brother. “ It’s actually nice because I can go to his place even though he’s not there right now if I ever need to, and all those team’s are so close to Baltimore and Baltimore is pretty close to our home in New Jersey.”
For Flacco now, it is about finding consistency in Frederick in order for him to move up in the Orioles system. He has spent a few games, about a week, at AA Bowie earlier in the year, but has never been further than AA. The first baseman and outfielder knows it is up to him to improve and move on.
“If I go out and start playing my [butt] off and putting up numbers, I am pretty confident they are going to move me along,” Flacco said about advancing his career. “You know, right now I am struggling and I [have] got to get myself together before I can expect to move up to Bowie or anywhere else. I think where I go is all based on me right now.”
Even though he has had some early season struggles, Flacco says he can feel himself starting to come around and identified what has been wrong and is working on improving it. Being able to make adjustments is part of being a productive major league player and it looks as if Flacco is starting to be able to make them.
“I am starting to feel like I can see that pitch coming out of [the pitcher's] hand and I am on these pitchers a lot more than I was [the] last year or two years ago, but for whatever reason I am not getting my bat out on the ball right now and I am not hitting it as far as I want to and sometimes I am not exactly sure why. But there are a couple of things I am working on in my swing that are going to help,” Flacco said about his plate struggles. “At the end of the day I have got to stop thinking so much when I get to the plate. Get in there, feel good and put the bat on the ball.”
It may not have been the prefect way to start a professional career, but Flacco is a part of the professional baseball community now. Even though sometimes when he hits a rough patch he may think, “what the hell was it that I like about this game,” Flacco is in it for the long haul. His drive is clear and after everything he has overcome, Flacco doesn’t seem like he is going to give up on his dream any time soon.
“I still see myself playing baseball until I don’t know when. I wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t feel that way.”