When Branden Kline was in high school at Gov. Thomas Johnson, he was selected by his childhood favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball Draft.
That was in 2009.Three years later, after declining to sign with the Red Sox and instead attending the University of Virginia, Kline was drafted on June 5 with the 65th overall pick in this year's draft by, of all organizations, his parents' favorite club: the Baltimore Orioles.
“Being with the Baltimore Orioles is great. It's not only a great opportunity for me to excel in professional baseball, but it's close to home,” the 20-year-old Kline said in a conference call. “My parents are diehard Baltimore Orioles fans, so it's nice to know that they can come to any of the games no matter where I'm at and support me on the field.”
Kline, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander, became the highest-ever draft pick from Frederick County. He finished his junior season at Virginia with a 7-3 record and a 3.56 earned run average in 15 starts. He struck out 94 in 93 2/3 innings and walked 43 while allowing 51 runs (37 earned). Kline previously served as a reliever and closer for the Cavaliers and saved 18 games in 2011. He's unsure how the Orioles intend to use him.
“It's definitely a confidence boost knowing that I've done both, but at the same time, I'm still growing as a ballplayer,” Kline said. “There are always ups and downs with pitching. That's what the game of baseball is. Whatever the Orioles want from me, that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to go out and do my best to get better.”
Despite being drafted in the past (198th overall), the moment was no less thrilling for Kline last week. He was in the process of cleaning out his locker at Virginia when he heard the news on MLB.com's live stream.
“I heard it and my heart kind of stopped. I really didn't know what to do. I was really excited,” Kline said. “I'm very thankful that the Orioles selected me to join their organization. Shortly after that, I got a call from one of the scouts congratulating me. I talked to them and they're excited for me to join the Oriole family.”
Having grown up in an Orioles family of his own, Kline — who throws a fastball in the low 90s and slider in the low 80s — was the Gazette's co-Player of the Year in 2009. He said he believes he made the right choice by spending three years at Virginia as the first member of his family to attend college. In his senior season at Thomas Johnson, he went 6-1 with a 0.51 ERA and allowed 15 hits in 41 innings while striking out 79.
“If I went higher [in 2009's draft], I wouldn't have looked back on what happened to me in high school, but I've enjoyed my three years here at the University of Virginia,” Kline said. “I told my mom I was going to come here and get my degree. I've loved every minute I've been in this institution. It's great academically, a prestigious school, and of course the baseball program is one of the top in the country, too.”
Kline was quick to credit his coaches and teammates for his recent success. He said he realizes his opportunity to succeed is as great now, if not greater, than it was in 2009. Even if it means he could someday be playing for his parents' favorite club, not his own.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Kline said. “Maybe this is just something you have to wait around for. Maybe it's a bigger calling that I was able to forego the draft, come to school and then get picked by the hometown team.”