A solid middle relief pitcher may be the most under-appreciated player on a Major League baseball team. For the Orioles, they may have one of the best in the game. His goofy personality, and on going competition with Tommy Hunter to see who can catch the most home run balls, has endeared him to fans.
Name: Darren Christopher O'Day Number: 56
Born: October 22, 1982 (31 years old) in Jacksonville, FL
Height: 6'4" Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Drafted: Undrafted, signed with Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as an amateur free agent
School: Bishop Kenney High School (Jacksonville, FL)
University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
Contract: $3,200,000 in 2014 ($4,250,000 team option for 2015, $400,000 buyout)
Became an Oriole: Selected off waivers from the Texas Rangers on November 2, 2011
Walk-up music: "Thickfreakness" by the Black Keys
It's pretty surprising to discover that a man named O'Day is not Irish. In fact, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun last year, he is actually Polish. About forty years ago Darren's father, Ralph, and one of his uncles legally changed their name from Odachowski to O'Day.
It was done as a tribute to their mother, Darren's grandmother. She was left as a widow with three sons after her husband died in a car accident when Ralph was 13 years old. To make ends meet and put all of her boys through college she worked long hours. At work, it made things easier for her to shorten her name to Odach; the "ch" was silent so it sounded like what we pronounce now as "O'Day".
To this day, Darren still has "D. Odachowski" stiched into the glove he uses in games.
Fast forward about thirty years when young Darren was going from high school to college. He was a good baseball player and always had a passion for it. He was no star, though. He only played varsity baseball his junior and senior years; not a four-year phenom. But still, some smaller schools had shone interest. He decided to go with his lofty academic expectations and attended the University of Florida, hoping for the best with baseball.
His freshman year he tried out for the Gators as a walk-on and was cut. It was a bummer for O'Day but he was looking towards a future in medicine. He was an animal science major and would later decide that he wanted to pursue a career as a plastic surgeon.
However, before giving up baseball forever he played in an adult baseball league with some friends. There, he showed off his new side-arm pitching motion. He mixed it in with his regular over-the-top delivery and had some success.
The new motion plus extra time in the gym led to some increased velocity and he gave the Gators baseball team another go. This time, he struck out all of the walk-on hitters he faced and made the team, going on to pitch for four years and even earning a scholarship.
While at Florida, O'Day met his future wife, and fellow UF alum, Elizabeth Prann. She was a journalism student and a member of the women's club lacrosse team. Now, many may be familiar with her as a reporter for FOX News, making her the more famous one in the couple. The two were married on November 20, 2010 in Atlanta, GA.
After college, O'Day toyed with the idea of leaving baseball behind once again and pursuing medical school. His grades were good enough to get in just about anywhere and Major League organizations weren't exactly knocking his door down. He went undrafted as a fifth year senior and his biggest suitor was former big leaguer Casey Kotchman's dad, Tom. He was a scout for the Angels. It would take some convincing.
O'Day spoke with Dr. John Poser, a former All-Big Ten pitcher for Wisconsin. Poser had been in O'Day's position. He let his father convince him to stick with medicine. In turn, Poser told O'Day to give baseball one more chance. So with that, and a $20,000 signing bonus, O'Day became a member of the Angels organization.
From there, his climb to the majors began and it was fast. It took three seasons before he made his debut with the Angels in 2008. That year, he made 30 appearances and pitched to a 4.57 ERA before tearing his shoulder in September and being removed from Anaheim's 40-man roster.
That December he was selected in the Rule Five draft by the New York Mets. Hours before O'Day made his debut for the Mets, he received word that a good friend of his in the Angels organization, Nick Adenhart, had been killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver.
Several days after that, the Mets took him off of their 40-man roster and he was claimed by the Texas Rangers. He met the team in Toronto and, upon arriving at the Rogers Centre, he learned that they didn't have a jersey for him so he had to wear Kason Gabbard's jersey. The jersey wasn't lucky and O'Day gave up a walk off single to Kevin Millar.
The Rangers then headed to Baltimore. After landing, Darren rented a car and drove to Adenhart's grave in Williamsport, PA. As a sign of respect, O'Day writes Adenhart's initials on each of his hats worn in the game.
After a few years of great perfomance, he caught the injury bug and couldn't stay off the DL. The Rangers placed him on waivers, the Orioles picked him up and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Vacation spot: Sanibel Island, FL
- Actor: Denzel Washington
- Actress: Scarlett Johansson
- Movie: Good Will Hunting
- Road city: Seattle or Boston
- Road stadium: Safeco Field
- Band: Incubus
- Reality show: Top Chef
- Animal: Dogs
- Prized possession: his Solowheel (we all remember this classic prank)
- If he wasn't a baseball player: a veterinarian or a surgeon
- O'Day is into always having the newest technology. For example, he pre-ordered the original iPad when he was with the Rangers. To mess with him, fellow reliver Darren Oliver stole the package before O'Day received it and hid it from him.
- In high school, O'Day and his friends thought it would be funny if one of them hid in the trunk of their car. Then, they would drive down the road, stop, and have that friend jump out of the car to make it seem like a kidnapping. Unfortunately for them, a lady saw this plan in action and called the police with O'Day's license plate number. The cops went to O'Day's home, but nothing serious needed to be done.
- At the University of Florida, O'Day was convinced by his then-girlfriend, Prann, and the women's club lacrosse team to don a lacrosse uniform, including the skirt all of the girls have to wear.