Josh Hader, 2012, Old Mill High School
by Pat O’Malley
Late bloomer is the ultimate understatement when talking about Old Mill’s Josh Hader.
From high school to the minor leagues to major league baseball, Hader has proved to be the all-time “late bloomer” in the game of baseball and he is the No. 1 Pitcher on the VSN 10th Anniversary All-Decade Team (2011-2020). Hader did not emerge with Outstanding Pitcher status until his senior year at Old Mill and became a 19th Round draft pick, the 582nd player chosen by the Baltimore Orioles in 2012, one Oriole pick ahead of Ryan Ripken of Gilman School.
Two trades and five years later on June 6, 2017, Hader made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers and has gone on to establish himself as the premier closer/relief pitcher in the Big Show. Hader was named National League Reliever of the Year in 2018 and 2019 and is as of May 18 9-for-9 in save opportunities and 3-0 as the top closer in the senior circuit, setting several incredible records.
The $40,000 bonus the Orioles gave him after their then scout Dean Albany (now with the Phillies) signed Hader, has now zoomed to his current salary of $6,675,000 with the Brew Crew and it could go through the roof when he becomes a free agent in 2024. His current salary ranks 12th among closer/relievers in MLB base salaries and 229th for the total of over 1,000 players.
The flame throwing sidearm left-hander with mid 90 to high 90 heat, slider and change is according to his mom, Trish Hader, “like a rose that rose to the occasion.”
Hader had gone 10-0 with an 0.39 ERA and 125 punchouts in 72.2 innings pitched after winning only six games in two previous varsity seasons, putting his career mark at 16-5. The Patriot lefty walked only 21 batters in 2012 and threw a pair of no-hitters, two 1-hitters, seven complete games while opponents hit a mere .070 against him.
The no-hitters came against Southern (pitched all but one inning) and Severna Park, annually one of the top hitting clubs in Anne Arundel. Hader struck out 14 of the latter Falcons. Hader’s last appearance as a high schooler came at Camden Yards in June, a few days after being drafted, in the Brooks Robinson High School All-Star Game. Hader fired two scoreless innings to lead the South over the North, 4-3, and took honors as the victor’s Most Valuable Pitcher.
“He had the most dominant season I have ever seen a pitcher have at the high school level,” said then Old Mill baseball coach Jeff Martin, who is now the athletic director at Anne Arundel County’s newest high school, Crofton High. “He had a great summer season before his senior year. He worked extremely hard to get in shape after an ankle injury his junior year. He came back (for his senior year) much bigger and having a great summer with his travel team.
“His velocity was up, had better command of all his pitches and he was pitching not throwing.”
Hader’s “travel team” was the Little Orioles high school eligible team coached by Tim O’Malley, a former star first baseman at Poly under the late, legendary coach Charlie Sullivan (328 wins, 3 MSA A Conference titles in 28 years) and UMBC’s longest tenured coach in school history, John Jancuska (673 wins in 34 years).
“Josh played with my son Brandon on the Little Orioles for a few summers and we played in a couple national tournaments, one of them in Kentucky,” said coach O’Malley. “Josh really sprouted up that summer (from about 6-foot to 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds). He really dedicated himself to being ready for his senior year. The hard work definitely paid off for him.”
Hader and Brandon O’Malley (two-time Baltimore Sun All-Metro) were named to the Baltimore Sun All-Metro Team in 2012 and were the only two Anne Arundel players named to two positions on the Coaches All-County team – Hader as a pitcher/outfielder and O’Malley, pitcher (8-1)/ shortstop. In addition to his sensational pitching in leading the Patriots to the Anne Arundel County Championship and an overall 19-4 record, including a Class 4A East semifinal finish and VSN’s No. 6 ranking, Hader also batted .409 with four home runs.
A year later after pitching in the Gulf Coast League and with the Aberdeen Ironbirds, the Orioles traded Hader to the Houston Astros at the trade deadline (July 31, 2013) in a deal that acquired Bud Norris for the Baltimore club when the team was respectable (W-L wise) and a playoff contender. Norris would win 21 games in three years, 19 in the first two including 2014 when the American League club went 96-66 and Buck Showalter was named Manager of the Year and Norris went 15-8.
Meanwhile, Hader continued his climb to the bigs. After the Astros acquired him, Hader was a standout with the Corpus Christi Hooks in 2014 and 2015 until he was traded to Milwaukee in late July once again before the deadline. He was assigned to the Biloxi Shuckers of AA Southern League and posted a 3.03 ERA.
In 2016 Hader was added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster and assigned to Colorado Springs of the AAA Pacific Coast League. Just one step from the majors. Hader started the 2017 campaign in Colorado Springs and by June he would be in a Milwaukee uniform. Starting out in the Brewers’ bullpen in 2018, Hader became the first MLB pitcher to strike out eight batters in less than three innings. He faced nine Cincinati Reds in 2.2 innings, walking one and striking out the rest.
Hader was named to the 2018 National League All-Star Team and finished the season at 6-1 with 12 saves and a 2.43 ERA as a reliever/closer. Lefthand hitters batted .088 against Hader and was named NL Reliever of the Year.
His encore was ditto in 2019 – All-Star game and National League Reliever of the Year as he appeared in 61 games, notching 37-for-44 saves, a 2.62 ERA and 138 K’s and just 20 walks in 75 innings of work.
Other records the 28-year old Hader set were also impressive. He had what is called an Immaculate Inning pitched on March 30, 2019 when he threw nine consecutive strikes, seven swinging by St. Louis Cardinal batters for a Tenacious Trey of “Thriceouts.”
Before that record, he set a record for most consecutive outs via the K-out – 16 set in 2018.
In COVID-19 dominated 2020, Hader recorded 13-of-15 save opportunities with 31 Ks in 19 innings pitched with a 3.79 ERA and in 12 consecutive appearances last year he stymied the opposition hitless for another MLB record.
Early this season, Hader became the fastest hurler to post 400 career strikeouts doing it in 234.2 innings.
About a year ago, Hader “closed” his relationship with Maria Macias who had been his girlfriend since his days with the Astros. She was in the Houston Marketing department when the two met and now she is Maria Hader.
Just 28 years old, the sky appears to be the limit for Hader.
And the way he is rolling the VSN 10th Anniversary Team may not be the ONLY All-Decade Team he makes.