Catching up with Baltimore Orioles Minor Leaguer Brian Ward
Brian Ward, who is a catcher in the Baltimore Orioles organization, is one of the hardest working players I saw in my time covering their minor league system. His demeanor on the field shows he has the capabilities of commanding respect with his pitching staff and that goes a long way towards success. He learned that while playing at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho.
The 5’11”, 210-pound catcher from Santa Monica, California lives with his wife, Nancy, and two daughters, ages four and two. When not on the baseball field, he loves spending time with his wonderful family and enjoying life.
“The family is doing great,” Ward said. “I’m just enjoying watching them grow and seeing them learn new things. My oldest girl is 4 and she is loving gymnastics. She is just as competitive as her dad. My wife is real busy watching the girls and is always on the move with my youngest girl that is 2. I’m a lucky husband as my wife is a special lady and a tremendous mother.”
Enjoying life in the winter also means working out and preparing for the upcoming grueling season. He has a job and works during the day, but wakes up early in the morning to lift weights and then hits the baseball activities in the afternoon after work.
“It’s a great schedule I’ve set for myself.”
Ward hit a bump in the road before the 2012 season when he was suspended 50 games for his second violation of the minor leagues’ drug treatment and prevention plan; also called “a drug of abuse.” However, he’s been able to rebound from his trials to reach Triple-A near the end of the 2013 season.
Ward’s defensive prowess as a catcher is what grades him well and pushes him forward. He threw out 47 percent of would-be-base-stealers last season which shows his arm strength. That ability can be taken anywhere.
The catcher says the ability to call a game depends a lot on the quality of pitchers who are throwing that particular day. He’s had the luxury of catching some solid pitchers in his four-year career including Dylan Bundy, Oliver Drake, Mike Wright and others.
While he believes his defensive skills are strong, he realizes he’s not a perfectionist and tries to improve every time he takes the field.
“I don’t think my defensive skills changed much,” he said. I just try to learn from my mistakes and the more I play the more polished I will become.”
Offensively, it’s a work-in-progress as his best year came with the Advanced-A Frederick Keys in 2011 when he batted .254/.339/.382 with seven home runs, 32 RBI in 104 games. The last two seasons combined with Bowie in 99 games, he’s clubbed only three home runs, 35 RBI with a .238/.334/.311 line. The numbers improved from 2012 to last season as he continues to see improvement.
“I feel like I will get better and better. I’m not a young minor league player but I’ve only played in 4 full seasons. I know who I am as a player. The power will come.”
One of the aspects of his game that is holding Ward back is his offense. If he can improve that moving forward he’ll see Camden Yards at some point next year.
With Matt Wieters the main catcher with the Orioles’ big club, a starting job for him isn’t likely. But he could be a great backup catcher at the major league level. He hasn’t made it yet. He’s getting older and although it doesn’t weigh heavily on his mind, he does think about it at times.
“I would be lying if I said I don’t think about it,” he said. “[I] just have to play well and be at the right place at the right time. It would mean the world for me and my family.”
Ward has enjoyed watching his former minor league teammates get their shine with the Orioles.
Third baseman Manny Machado was an All-Star in 2013 and was on his way until a gruesome knee injury sidelined him the final week of the regular season. Even with the injury, Machado should be ready for opening day; and Ward has no doubt Manny will be ready.
“It was fun watching Manny this past season. One thing I knew about Manny was that he was a winner and big game player. He’ll bounce back from this injury and be able to help the Orioles win a World Series next season.”
Another one of his former minor league teammates, Jonathan Schoop, made his debut in the final week of 2013. Schoop made Orioles history with a home run and three runs scored in his debut. Ward said Schoop was “one of my favorites players I’ve ever played with” because of the attitude he brings to the game.
“[Schoop] is always in a good mood and brings such a positive vibe to a clubhouse,” Ward said. “Watching him hit that home run gave me goosebumps.”
With all that being said, Ward covets an opportunity to play at the highest level. He has the leadership qualities to command respect in the clubhouse, especially with a pitching staff. Every pitcher I’ve ever spoke with about Ward has given the highest of compliments towards him.
If everything goes right in that Ward can have a solid spring training, he’ll certainly be in line for a shot on the 25-man roster for the Baltimore Orioles sometime next year. He certainly deserves the opportunity.
Outside Pitch Sports Network thanks Brian Ward for the interview time he gave us. Follow Co-Founder Andrew Vigliotti on Twitter for more updates @Andrew_Vig