From Local Paper Story By Jack Ireland
Normally, receiving an F on a school assignment is never a good thing.
However, William Penn High graduate Brett Oberholtzer credits one F from a teacher at Gunning Bedford Middle School years ago for giving him extra incentive to push harder for his dream to be a pro baseball player.
Oberholtzer, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound left-hander from St. Georges, was drafted in the eighth round and signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2008. He's now pitching for the Carolina League Class A Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
Even though he didn't get that coveted hometown start he was hoping for over the weekend at Frawley Stadium, Oberholtzer was upbeat about his career before Sunday's series finale against the Blue Rocks.
Oberholtzer, 20, was promoted to Myrtle Beach this year from Rome (Ga.) (low Class A) after going 0-2 with an impressive 1.86 ERA.
"I remember this one class at Gunning Bedford," said Oberholtzer, a high school All-American at William Penn. "Our teacher passed out index cards with a piece of paper and told us to write down what you want to be when you grow older. I was in the sixth or seventh grade. He said you can't put down things like professional athlete, a rap singer, stuff like that. He said that's because it's very unlikely you could succeed at them. I kind of laughed. When I was a little kid, out in the backyard playing catch, I told my dad I wanted to be a pro baseball player. So, I took the paper and wrote in big capital letters, 'I'm going to be a professional baseball player.' I walked up to his desk and gave it to him. He looked at the paper, looked at me and wrote down a grade of F. When I look back now, that's the best grade I ever got. I was satisfied because that's all I ever wanted to be. I was writing the truth of what I wanted. That teacher gave me more incentive than he will ever know."
While Myrtle Beach is struggling with a 13-31 record and just had three players suspended 50 games for violating the minor league drug program, Oberholtzer is starting to show signs of why he is listed as the third best left-handed starter in the Braves system by Baseball America. He's 2-3 with a rather high 6.15 ERA, but coming off his best start of the year in a 3-1 win on Thursday over Winston-Salem, the best-hitting and winningest team in the league. Oberholtzer allowed a run and six hits in six innings. He struck out the last five hitters he faced.
"I was able to spot my fastball, was changing speeds, going up and down and in and out with my pitches," said Oberholtzer. "When you become a professional pitcher, everything should work off your fastball. I had confidence in my fastball and had a good changeup the other night. When you start moving up to the different levels, so much of pitching is mental. I actually thought I was throwing better than my stats indicated in my other [four] starts."
Oberholtzer was pitching for Danville in the Rookie Appalachian League last year. He was impressive, going 6-2 with a 2.01 ERA. In 2009, he allowed three runs or fewer in all but one start.
"Brett is doing a fine job. In fact, he did a tremendous job, his best start of the year against Winston-Salem," Myrtle Beach manager Rocket Wheeler said. "You have to remember he made a pretty quick jump up in leagues coming here. TheCarolina League is a pretty good league. You have some older guys, and smarter young hitters as well. Brett is literally learning on the job."
Oberholtzer said that his parents, Fred and Kathy Oberholtzer, are the people who have helped him the most in his life to prepare for this professional challenge.
"It's not about the physical part of the game and stuff like that," said Oberholtzer. "It might sound like a cliché, but they always told me to work hard for things I wanted and not give up on any of your dreams."
Oberholtzer said he was hoping to get a start against the Rocks at Frawley with family and friends in attendance, but he wasn't that upset considering the effort he had at Winston-Salem. Myrtle Beach returns to Frawley for a three-game set July 10-12.
His last start at Frawley came when he beat Salesianum in the semifinal of the 2006 state baseball tournament. The Colonials lost to Caravel in the final.
"Growing up here, being from St. Georges I would come to the stadium all the time to watch and root for the Blue Rocks," Oberholtzer said. "Yes, I was really looking forward to pitching in this series, but that's the way the rotation fell in place. Hopefully, I'll get a chance when we come back. Then, I'm hoping my next local area stop will be Citizens Bank Park in a big league uniform. I can't think of wanting to do anything else in my life right now than play pro baseball."
Just before heading back into the clubhouse, Oberholtzer wanted to mention Mel Gardner, his coach at William Penn. Gardner retired after 30 years as the school's baseball coach last week at the close of the 2010 regular season.
"Mel Gardner was a tough coach, but well respected by his players," Oberholtzer said. "He knew the game so well, would be there to talk with you. Just a great guy. I love to come home and talk about those days at William Penn with him. Mel and his daughter came down to Danville to watch me pitch last year. I really appreciated that."