Darren O’Day almost went to medical school. Instead, he retired Monday after 15 seasons in the major leagues.
The former Orioles right-hander with the funky submarine delivery announced on Twitter that his unlikely run as a professional pitcher had finally come to its conclusion. O’Day, 40, pitched for six teams, although he might’ve made his biggest impact in Baltimore.
O’Day’s lone All-Star nomination came in 2015 for the Orioles, as part of his seven standout years with the organization. In 2015, the reliever threw 65 1/3 innings with a 1.52 ERA, a 0.946 WHIP and six saves. It was the pinnacle of O’Day’s career, having arrived in Baltimore in 2011 as a waiver claim from the Texas Rangers.
He remained in Baltimore until 2018, when the Orioles traded O’Day and right-hander Kevin Gausman to the Atlanta Braves at the start of the franchise’s rebuild. O’Day played three years in Texas, three years in Atlanta, and also pitched for the New York Mets, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels.
O’Day was under-recruited out of Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville and walked onto the team at the University of Florida. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Angels, was picked by the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft, and required two waiver claims before settling with the Orioles as a stout back-end reliever.
Across his seven seasons in Baltimore, O’Day threw 374 1/3 innings, with a 2.40 ERA and 19 saves. Among pitchers who threw at least 200 innings for the Orioles, O’Day’s 174 ERA+ — a measure that ranks pitcher performance, with 100 equalling league average — is the second-highest ever, behind only right-hander Gregg Olson, according to Stathead.
“When I started in 2006, I didn’t know if I was good enough to compete in MLB, but I was determined to keep going until someone told me otherwise,” O’Day wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “I hope anyone out there who does things a little different can find inspiration in my story.”
O’Day mentioned Tom Kotchman, the longtime Angels scout, who convinced him to put off medical school to pursue his baseball dreams. He acknowledged how he wore Nick Adenhart’s No. 34 under the bill of his cap for the final fourteen seasons of his career, remembering his former Angels teammate who died in a car crash in 2009 at age 22.
“When I would get in to jams on the mound, I would take my hat off, see his number, and be reminded that bases loaded, no outs was a small problem in the grand scheme of life,” O’Day wrote. “To Nick and his family I am forever grateful.”
O’Day finishes his career with 17.4 wins above replacement and a career 2.59 ERA. Not bad for someone who almost went to medical school.
“Finally, after 17 seasons in professional baseball,” O’Day wrote, “it is time to go home.”