WALLA WALLA — Eric O’Flaherty fans have the chance to meet the Atlanta Braves reliever and get their memorabilia autographed by the left-hander at the Wa-Hi boys basketball game against Kamiakin Friday night.
The event, the first of the Big Blue Boosters’ new alumni awards honoring former Blue Devils who went on to professional athletic careers, includes a presentation to O’Flaherty of a framed Wa-Hi baseball jersey with plaque prior to the 7:30 p.m. game Friday.
Friday’s event will be followed by a similar presentation to former Blue Devils and pro football players Drew Bledsoe and Dean Derby at halftime of Wa-Hi’s home game against Eisenhower on Jan. 29.
O’Flaherty, a 2003 Wa-Hi graduate, will be available to sign memorabilia during the game Friday, Big Blue Boosters past president Scott Krivoshein said.
"The Big Blue Boosters felt we haven’t done anything for the seven pro players that went through this (Wa-Hi’s) system," Krivoshein said of the presentations. "It was sad we had no memorabilia for them. And we wanted to make sure the guys know they are appreciated for their pro — as well as high school and college — careers.
"The Big Blue Boosters want to do something to make that difference, and it amazed me it hasn’t been done before."
The Big Blue Boosters are having a new display case built which will house memorabilia from Wa-Hi grads that continued their athletic endeavors into college and beyond. The exact qualifications for inclusion are still being hammered out, Krivoshein said.
O’Flaherty was 5-2 with a 1.99 earned run average and 83 strikeouts as he earned Big Nine Pitcher of the Year honors his senior season at Wa-Hi. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 Major League Baseball draft by the Seattle Mariners, and worked his way through the Mariners’ minor league system until he was called up by the Mariners in August, 2006.
O’Flaherty took advantage of his 43 appearances in 2006, and became a fixture in the M’s bullpen in 2007. He compiled a 7-1 record with a 4.47 ERA in 56 relief appearances in 2007, but was hampered by injuries during the 2008 season. Seattle placed him on waivers following the season, and O’Flaherty was picked up by Atlanta.
He was 2-1 with a 3.04 ERA, striking out 39 and walking just 18, in 78 relief outings for the Braves in 2009.
O’Flaherty is preparing for the opening of spring training next month.
Krivoshein said O’Flaherty’s presentation Friday night only enhances the Wa-Hi-Kamiakin basketball matchup on the court.
"It should be a heckuva game against Kamiakin," he said. "Bring out the kids and meet the only former Blue Devil still playing (major professional sports)."
The Blue Devils are 11-2 overall, and 6-1 in Big Nine Cascade Division play, while the Braves bring an 11-2 overall and 5-2 Big Nine Cascade Division mark into game.